Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

honeypot link
Professional Version

Solvents and Emulsifiers (Toxicity)


Ramesh C. Gupta

, DVM, PhD, DABT, FACT, FACN, Toxicology Department, Breathitt Veterinary Center, Murray State University

Last full review/revision Aug 2014 | Content last modified Jun 2016

Solvents and emulsifiers are required in most liquid insecticide preparations. Usually they have low toxicity, but like the petroleum products (which many are), they must be considered as possible causes of poisoning. In direct treatment with pesticides, emulsification must be thorough, with an average droplet size of 5 microns (preferably smaller), or excessive amounts may stick to treated animals. Treatment should be as for petroleum product poisoning ( see Petroleum Product Poisoning Petroleum Product Poisoning ).


GI irritation, narcosis, and kidney and liver damage are the main signs of acetone poisoning. Treatment consists of gastric lavage, oxygen, and a low-fat diet. Additional supportive treatment to alleviate clinical signs may be given.

Isopropyl Alcohol:

Isopropyl alcohol poisoning signs are GI pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and CNS depression (dizziness, stupor, coma, and death from respiratory paralysis). The liver and kidneys are reversibly affected. Dehydration and pneumonia may occur. Treatment consists of emetics, gastric lavage, milk, oxygen, and artificial respiration.


Typical signs of methanol poisoning include nausea, vomiting, gastric pain, reflex hyperexcitability, opisthotonos, convulsions, fixed pupils, and acute peripheral neuritis. Large overdoses can lead to blindness. Toxic effects are due in part to the alcohol itself, and in part to formic acid produced by its oxidation. Treatment should include emetics (apomorphine) followed by gastric lavage with 4% sodium bicarbonate, saline laxative, oxygen therapy, sodium bicarbonate solution IV, and analgesics; however, the prognosis is poor. Intensive and prolonged alkalinization is the mainstay of treatment. Ethanol retards the oxidation of methanol and may be given as an adjunct therapy.

quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!