This is a rare and tragic case first covered by the Dutch Medical Journal (Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde). A mentally ill man died after deliberately drinking a number of e-liquid bottles containing nicotine.
The facts were reported by hospital staff who treated the man, who suffered from bipolar disorder, before his death. The death has been ruled a suicide. After swallowing the contents of a number of electronic cigarette liquid containers, the man suffered a fatal heart failure. While in intensive care in the Netherlands, the man’s blood was tested to reveal a staggering 3mg of nicotine per litre. A smoker’s blood will in general contain 0.01 to 0.05 mg of nicotine per litre.
Despite the efforts of medical staff, the man passed away after eight days of care due to post-anoxic encephalopathy. This resulted in irreversible brain damage as a result of oxygen-starvation in brain tissue during cardiac arrest.
Drinking commercial e-liquid has limited but real health risks
While the cause of death may worry vaping enthusiasts who swallow a drop of e-liquid now and then, this is far from a case of general use. Indeed, this is a highly specific situation and in no way can be framed as an accident.
According to professor Mayer of the University of Graz, a fatal dose of nicotine represents 500 mg for an adult. The victim allegedly ingested at least 450 mg in a desperate act of suicide. However, the solutions available on the market today rarely exceed 50-60 mg (Nicotine Salt). One would have to ingest a significant amount for the dosage to prove fatal.
Readers should recall that another individual attempted the exact same thing by ingesting a total of 1 500 mg of nicotine. She survived, however, which goes to show that lethal doses will vary from one person to the next.
It is highly improbably that an adult could die by swallowing the content of a single commercial vial of e-liquid, whatever the nicotine concentration. Furthermore, to ingest such a quantity by accident would most definitely trigger a vomiting reflex, and would pose no real threat to one’s health.
Remember to store your e-liquids out of reach for children and pets.
Jean-Pascal is BlogVape’s resident scientist. As former medical journalist, he was able to quit smoking with e-cigarettes and hopes to inspire others to do the same.