Lacquer is a clear or colored coating (called a varnish) that is often used to give wooden surfaces a glossy look. Lacquer is dangerous to swallow. Breathing in the fumes for a long period is also harmful.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Poisoning from lacquers is due to hydrocarbons, which are substances that contain only hydrogen and carbon.
Lacquers are products that are used as a clear finish for wooden surfaces, particularly floors. They are sold under various brand names.
Lacquer poisoning can cause symptoms in many parts of the body.
AIRWAYS AND LUNGS
BLADDER AND KIDNEYS
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
HEART AND BLOOD
Get medical help right away. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care provider.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water, unless instructed otherwise by a provider.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move them to fresh air.
Get the following information:
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Burns in the airway or gastrointestinal tract can lead to tissue death. This may result in infection, shock and death, even several months after substance was swallowed. Scar tissue in the affected areas can lead to long-term problems with breathing, swallowing, and digestion.
Prolonged exposure to lacquer fumes can cause serious, long-term problems in the lungs and brain.
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.