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Methanol Poisoning

Methanol Poisoning is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Colorless, volatile liquid
  • Absorbed in 30–60 min
  • Metabolized by liver
  • Half-life 4–8 hr
  • Mechanism:
    • Inebriating
    • Nontoxic
    • Metabolites of formaldehyde and formic acid produce toxic effects.
    • Inhibits cytochrome oxidase.
  • Formic acid:
    • Determines degree of acidosis, visual symptoms, and mortality
    • Directly toxic to retinal and optic nerve tissue
  • Methanol metabolism:
    • Step 1: Methanol is converted to formaldehyde by liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.
    • Step 2: Formaldehyde is then rapidly converted by aldehyde dehydrogenase to formic acid.
    • Step 3: Formic acid is degraded to carbon dioxide and water by folate-dependent mechanism.
    • Steps 1 and 3 are rate-limiting steps.


Common sources of methanol:
  • Wood alcohol
  • Windshield washer fluid (> 60% cases)
  • Inhalational abuse of carburetor cleaners
  • Fuel antifreeze solutions
  • Formalin
  • Gasoline
  • Paint solvents
  • Household cleaners
  • Sterno cans
  • Moonshine
  • Model airplane fuel
  • Photocopying fluid
  • Perfumes

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Methanol Poisoning." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307555/1.1/Methanol_Poisoning.
Methanol Poisoning. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307555/1.1/Methanol_Poisoning. Accessed August 19, 2019.
Methanol Poisoning. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307555/1.1/Methanol_Poisoning
Methanol Poisoning [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 August 19]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307555/1.1/Methanol_Poisoning.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Methanol Poisoning ID - 307555 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307555/1.1/Methanol_Poisoning PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -