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A Rare Case of Poisoning with a Volatile Substance: Quantitative Determination of n‐Butane in Postmortem Tissue

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Poisoning with volatile substances remains exceptional. Authors report the case of a married couple who were found in a car with a butane gas bottle: the woman was dead and her husband alleged it was an unsuccessful suicide pact. A specific research of volatile substances on postmortem samples with headspace gas chromatography–mass spectrometry following a quantitative determination was performed. The n‐butane concentrations detected were composed of 610 μg/L (cardiac blood), 50 μg/kg (brain), 134 μg/kg (lungs), 285 μg/kg (liver), and 4090 μg/kg (heart) and were compatible with the rare lethal concentrations evoked in the literature. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation through n‐butane criminal poisoning. Authors recommendation therefore is to take samples immediately and place them in properly sealed containers and hence analyzing the samples as soon as possible after collecting them or storing them under −30°C (−22°F) if analyses cannot be performed immediately.
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Keywords: N‐butane; criminal poisoning; forensic science; forensic toxicology; headspace gas chromatography–mass spectrometry; postmortem concentrations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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