I have just minutes ago been splashed with industrial grade methanol. It seemed like a small amount (1-3mL) on my skin. I already washed the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Online I've reviewed SDS's for methanol and they all seem to say that immediate medical attention is needed, and that the person exposed can be asymptomatic for a while. Does a small splash like that warrant medical evaluation?


closed as off-topic by DavePhD, Jori, M.A.R., ron, bon Jan 22 '15 at 18:03

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  • "Personal medical questions are off-topic on Chemistry. We can not safely answer questions for your specific situation and you should always consult a doctor for medical advice." – DavePhD, Jori, M.A.R., ron, bon
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    $\begingroup$ Washing your skin was the best you could do. You will be fine! $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Jan 22 '15 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ @everyone Thanks everyone for adding a little humor to my panic attack :) I know that such small volumes of toxic chemicals can often be taken care of by your body, but 1) SDS's are horrible at describing the amount of exposure (in human-intuitive units) that cause those scary effects they outline, and 2) I work with stuff that's 1 x 10^6 more dangerous than methanol (say like methyl vinyl ketone), where one drop on your skin can hospitalize you. I guess I wasn't sure where on the spectrum this one landed. Thanks though! $\endgroup$ – tralston Jan 22 '15 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/21915/… - relevant info $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jan 22 '15 at 15:03

"[A] factory worker who spilled a gallon of methanol down his trouser leg, was dizzy on the following day, took a short nap, and woke up total blind" Biochemical aspects of Methanol Poisoning, Biochemical Pharmacology, vol. 11, page 405.

So spilling methanol on your skin is serious, but the amount in your case is relatively small.

The article also explains that ingestion of as little as "a teaspoon" (5 mL) has caused permanent blindness.

In any case, the internet is no place to get medical advice. If you are concerned you should call your local poison control center.

  • $\begingroup$ But I agree with you in the part "if you're concerned you should call your local poison control center." $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Jan 22 '15 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ I get it now. You wanted to emphasize not to take these things a joke next time. Point taken and I do agree with you. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Jan 22 '15 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for an in-depth answer after my initial comment. Concerning permanent blindness, this case reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology might be interesting too. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Jan 22 '15 at 13:24

For any poisonous material we have special terms defined. In your case biochemists defined PEL (permissible exposure limit).

PEL is mainly important when it comes to deciding about for example "will the mineral water of that source be applicable for everyday-use of humans?" Many things affect the PEL for humans; such as age (kid, adult, etc.), type of exposure (ingestion, dermal exposure, breathing etc.), the medical situation of the exposed (other ailments or symptoms that can aggravate the harmful effect of a special kind of chemical) and so forth.

As your profile says, you're in your thirties, and thus are considered an adult. According to here an ingestion of up to 500 milligrams in an adults diet is no problem, among other trivia. And according to here, (in which you're considered to be supposedly exposed short-termly) if you didn't have headaches there couldn't be any problem.

Addendum :

You were exposed to methanol in the dermal way, not ingestion. As a result, as the second reference mentions, the liver will be able to turn methanol into formaldehyde and then formate. Formate is toxic. As some of this methanol will evaporate and the rest will eventually be absorbed by the skin you might not be in serious trouble. However, a specialist's advice is the best in this case. Human biology isn't really something anyone will be able to give statements about without empirical observation.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "A single diet soda exposes you more than this"? The reference in your answer says a diet soda can produce 20 milligrams. $\endgroup$ – DavePhD Jan 22 '15 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ 3mL is 3000mg, not 3mg. $\endgroup$ – DavePhD Jan 22 '15 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MARamezani it wouldn't be funny if you were a doctor or nurse or pharmacist. Somebody was off by a factor of 1000 at Christus Spohn Hospital and: cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/07/09/heparin.babies $\endgroup$ – DavePhD Jan 22 '15 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth mentioning that ethanol is an antidote for methanol poisoning. $\endgroup$ – iad22agp Jan 22 '15 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ I'm still around... for now :) $\endgroup$ – tralston Jan 23 '15 at 4:34

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