Toxicity of tetramethylammonium hydroxide: Review of two fatal cases of dermal exposure and development of an animal model

Chung Hsun Lee, Chao Ling Wang, Hsiu Fen Lin, Chee Yin Chai, Ming Yuan Hong, Chi Kung Ho

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22 Citations (Scopus)


To document two cases of patients who were fatally exposed to tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) on the skin and to establish a rat model to investigate the effects of dermal exposure to TMAH. The charts of two workers who died from occupational accidental exposure to TMAH were reviewed. The 4-hour lethal dose (LD50) of TMAH was determined by applying solutions mimicking the two most common industrially used concentrations (2.38% and 25%) of TMAH to the skin of Sprague-Dawley rats. Exposure of the rat's skin to 2.38% or 25% TMAH generated LD50values of 85.9 mg/kg and 28.7 mg/kg, respectively. Application of either concentration of TMAH to the skin produced a rapid, significant increase in the rate of respiration. The serum concentrations of tetramethylammonium (TMA) also changed significantly with time of exposure to both concentrations of TMAH. The level of blood urea nitrogen decreased significantly in rats exposed to the 2.38% TMAH, and rats exposed to the 25% solution had a significant decrease in the serum concentration of sodium. Injection of atropine after 5 minutes of exposure did not significantly overcome any of the toxic effects observed with either solution of TMAH. The preliminary results in the rat model indicated that the lethality of TMAH cannot be fully explained by the severity of the patients’ chemical burns, and the physiologic effects on respiratory and kidney functions were probably involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-503
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology and Industrial Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jul

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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