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Solder poisoning

Solder is used to connect electric wires or other metal parts together. Solder poisoning occurs when someone swallows solder in large amounts. Skin burns can occur if solder touches the skin.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The substances in solder that can be harmful are:

  • Antimony
  • Bismuth
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Lead
  • Mild acids
  • Silver
  • Tin
  • Zinc

Where Found

Solder contains these substances. It may also contain other harmful substances.

Symptoms

Symptoms for lead:

BLADDER AND KIDNEYS

  • Kidney damage

EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

HEART AND BLOOD

MUSCLES AND JOINTS

NERVOUS SYSTEM

SKIN

  • Pale skin
  • Yellow skin

Symptoms for tin and zinc chloride:

BLADDER AND KIDNEYS

  • Decreased urine output
  • No urine output

EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT

  • Burns in mouth and throat
  • Yellow eyes (jaundice)

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

SKIN

  • Yellow skin

Symptoms for ethylene glycol:

  • Disturbance in the acid balance of the blood (can lead to failure of many organs)
  • Kidney failure

Symptoms for cadmium:

  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced brain function or intelligence
  • Reduced lung function
  • Softening of the bones and kidney failure

Symptoms for bismuth:

  • Diarrhea
  • Eye irritation
  • Gum disease (gingivitis)
  • Kidney damage
  • Metallic taste
  • Skin irritation

Symptoms for silver:

  • Grayish-black staining of the skin and mucous membranes
  • Silver deposits in the eyes

Symptoms for antimony:

  • Chemical burns
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Eczema
  • Headache
  • Irritation of mucous membranes
  • Stomach problems

Symptoms for copper:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Heart, kidney, and liver failure (uncommon)
  • Confusion (uncommon)
  • Fever

Home Care

Get medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. If the solder is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the solder was swallowed, give the person water right away, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. Do NOT give water if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (and ingredients, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • Dialysis (kidney machine)
  • EKG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through the vein (by IV)
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Surgery to remove burned skin
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation), perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well the person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster someone gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Outcomes depend on the type of poison swallowed:

  • Ethylene glycol is extremely poisonous.
  • Complete recovery from lead poisoning takes a year or more. It may cause permanent brain damage.
  • If the amount of zinc or tin swallowed is low, recovery should occur within approximately 6 hours.
  • Skin color changes due to silver poisoning are permanent.
  • Long-term poisoning with antimony and cadmium may lead to lung cancer.
  • Recovery from acid poisoning depends on how much tissue has been damaged.

References

Hall AH, Shannon MW. Other heavy metals. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 75.

Jacobsen D, Hovda KE. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and other toxic alcohols. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 32.

White SR.Toxic alcohols. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 155.

Update Date 11/4/2015