Gun Cleaners

With hunting season upon us, we at the Indiana Poison Center hope you have your eye on that big buck, but we’d also like to remind you to keep a close watch on your gun and the gun products you may be using to get ready for opening day.  Gun cleaners, degreasers, oils, bluing compounds and reloading products can be poisonous if ingested.

Gun cleaners, degreasers and oils are basically categorized as hydrocarbons.  If hydrocarbons are swallowed and even a little bit is sucked into the lungs, a bad type of pneumonia can occur.  When hydrocarbons or other simple petroleum distillates like mineral oil are swallowed, they are poorly absorbed from the GI tract and don’t cause whole body effects, UNLESS they have gotten into the lungs.  IF they go into the lungs the following things may occur: coughing, choking, breathing fast, sudden onset of sleepiness, and shortness of breath.  Serious conditions such as lung edema, pneumonia, respiratory arrest and death may occur.  Some cleaning products contain both hydrocarbons and nitrobenzene.  These products can also cause methemoglobinemia, where the blood doesn’t carry oxygen properly and the person effected turns very blue and has trouble breathing.

Gun bluing contains a variety of acids, bases and other chemicals, which can cause serious burns and damage to several of the body’s organs.  Gun bluing agents contain selenious oxide and/or selenious acid which, when ingested, can cause excessive drooling, the odor of garlic on the breath, copious vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and muscle spasms.  The heart can become enlarged and heart-lung malfunction can develop.  Selenious acid can also cause burns of the  mouth, throat, and stomach.   If it is accidentally ingested by a child, immediately wipe any residue out of the mouth and administer a glass of water.  Call the Indiana Poison Center immediately for specific instructions.

Gunpowder contains nitrates and sulfur compounds.  The toxicity of nitrates is due to their change, in the body, to nitrites.  After ingestion, nausea and vomiting are the first signs to be seen. Other common findings associated with nitrite poisoning include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, low blood pressure and headaches.  Methemoglobinemia may develop following exposure.

Because it bears repeating every season, remember that an invisible killer, carbon monoxide, is a major cause of hunters’ deaths each year.  Be especially careful not to use a flame-producing device in unventilated areas such as tents, campers or even boat cabins.  Hunters who go back to their vehicles to warm up and fall asleep with the motor running are likely to be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Remember that fresh air is carbon monoxide’s worst enemy.

We at the Indiana Poison Center want to wish you a happy and safe hunting season.  In case of accidental ingestions of any of these products, do NOT induce vomiting.  Please call the Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 where experts are standing by twenty-four hours a day to help you.  To learn more about poison prevention and to receive a free magnet and phone stickers, you may also call 1-800-222-1222.

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