A study of fatal cases of nitrous-oxide (10024972) abuse in the workplace was conducted. The Integrated Management Information Systems data base of OSHA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) files for the period 1984 through 1987 were searched to identify all deaths in which nitrous-oxide was mentioned and in which the death was work related. A total of 6390 work related deaths were listed in the OSHA data base and 23955 deaths in the CPSC files during the study period; 11 deaths due to work related inhalation of nitrous-oxide were identified. All victims were males and the deaths occurred from recreational use of nitrous-oxide while on the job. OSHA investigated eight deaths. Four deaths were listed in the CPSC files, one of which was investigated by OSHA. Two deaths occurred in hospital workers, three in laboratory workers, and six in persons employed in restaurants or food preparation facilities. The authors conclude that fewer deaths occur from nitrous-oxide use than from other forms of drug abuse. When viewed as a workplace hazard nitrous-oxide abuse appears to be increasing. It was recommended that as a minimum, employers be made aware of the danger of nitrous-oxide abuse and that the inventory of nitrous-oxide cylinders be maintained in such a way that unauthorized or illicit use is prevented.
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