Shoe spray agony as poisonings increase

Local | Stella Wong 11 Apr 2019

The Hong Kong Poison Information Centre has warned the public to be careful when using water repellent shoe spray, after a patient suffered from chemical pneumonitis last year.

The center, which comes under the Hospital Authority, received 3,960 cases related to people being poisoned last year, slightly up from the total in 2017.

In all, 30 deaths related to poisoning were recorded, with and two-thirds of these were suicides.

In one incident, a 40-year-old patient had applied water repellent shoe spray on his sports shoes for 15 minutes in an indoor area at home.

Half an hour after applying the spray, he had a coughing spasm and suffered from shortness of breath, and was taken to hospital.

The man's chest X-ray showed that he was suffering from chemical pneumonitis. After being treated with oxygen supplements and antibiotics, he was discharged two days later.

Chan Chi-keung, an associate consultant at the center, said the shoe spray contained fluorocarbon polymers and organic solvents, which react with water in the lungs and cause the alveoli inside to malfunction. This results in oxygen desaturation.

"The patient can't breathe after inhaling an excessive amount of the shoe spray," he said.

Chan added that pressurized products are more dangerous, as the pressurized can will "moisturize the chemicals, turning them into very small particles that can easily go down into the small airway in the alveoli and cause damage there."

Although such cases are not common in Hong Kong, Chan advised citizens to apply the spray in an outdoor or well-ventilated area, limit the usage time to five minutes and wear a mask when using such products.

The center also urged citizens to be wary that elderly citizens and children may mistake dangerous household products as food.

This comes after an 83-year-old man with diabetes felt dizzy early in the morning and suspected that he had a low blood sugar level.

He dissolved three small packets of powder into water and drank it, believing the packets contained sugar, but the contents were a highly corrosive powder used to unclog drains.

The man suffered severe chemical burns to his mouth, pharynx, esophagus and stomach, and required mechanical ventilation and gastric tube feeding during one month of in-patient treatment.

The center also received three cases of accidental ingestion of rodent poison mixed with human food at home.

In addition, there were five cases of venomous snake bites in regards to people traveling abroad last year, a record-breaking figure since the center opened in 2005.

Search Archive

Advanced Search
July 2019

Today's Standard

Yearly Magazine

Yearly Magazine