The case of a 17 year old abuser of butane aerosols who developed fulminant hepatic failure after taking a proprietary engine or carburetor cleaner is described. Fatalities as a result of liver failure due to volatile hydrocarbons or solvents have not previously been reported. The likely toxins included isopropyl alcohol, methyl amyl alcohol, butylated hydroxytoluene as well as petroleum products, and evidence for their toxicity is reviewed. The possibility of increased susceptibility to hepatotoxins after enzyme induction by abuse of volatile agents is discussed. Hepatic dysfunction should be sought in patients who abuse solvents or volatile hydrocarbons and supportive measures instituted promptly when required.
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