Blurred vision, malaise and feeling of impending fainting — these are some of the symptoms reported by women who denounced app drivers for trying to dope them. Unlike in the movies, none of them were confronted with a piece of cloth soaked in some toxic substance or even drank an adulterated beverage.
So how can this be possible? In the cases mentioned, the reported attempts occurred through air conditioning, a substance spread in the car with a spray and an open pot inside the vehicle. The victims managed to get out of the car before they became unconscious.
In an interview with R7, Toxicologist Luciana Toledo, from Ciatox (Center for Information and Toxicological Assistance) at Hospital das Clínicas, Faculty of Medicine, USP (University of São Paulo), explained how intoxication occurs.
“Probably they are using chloroform or ether, which are very volatile solvents, that is, they change from liquid to vapor very quickly. then by inhalation [dessas substâncias] the passenger may begin to present, after a few minutes, mental confusion, dizziness and blurred vision”, explains the specialist.
How can the substance be released by air conditioning?
In this case, Luciana adds that it is not possible to put the substance inside the air conditioner because, as it is volatile solvents, evaporation would happen almost immediately and it would not be possible to disperse it throughout the car, especially if the windows are open. .
“What can happen is that if the driver, for example, puts a car flavoring with chloroform inside and turns on the air conditioning, the air flow will probably carry these factors directly towards the passenger”, emphasizes the toxicologist.
in the episode denounced in São Paulothe driver kept the windows closed, which may have contributed to increase the concentration of the product and cause symptoms of dizziness, motion sickness and blurred vision in the passenger.
How can the chemical be sprayed?
In Rio de Janeiro, the passenger who made the complaint stated that the driver had sprayed the substance with a spray claiming it was alcohol, possibly to sanitize the vehicle – a measure adopted during the pandemic. Soon after, she began to show the characteristic symptoms of intoxication. In this case, the air conditioning was also on.
“If you spray ether or chloroform inside the car, as it is a very volatile substance, it will evaporate and spread in the environment, which can numb the passenger”, says Luciana. Even so, the windows would have to be closed to increase the concentration of the product.
However, in this specific case, the report from the Criminalistics Institute of the Civil Police of Rio confirmed that the sprayed content really was 70% alcoholwhich ruled out the suspicion of attempted doping.
Is it possible to get intoxicated if a jar of some chemical substance is opened inside the car?
One of the victims reported that the driver closed all the vehicle’s windows and opened a jar containing a colorless liquidwhich was followed by a strong smell that filled the room.
The toxicologist points out that it is also possible to cause intoxication in this way, as the products tend to evaporate quickly after exposure to the environment.
In this case, the victim was wearing a PFF2 mask—known for properly sealing the nose and mouth area—which prevented her from falling unconscious, although it did not completely block the passage of the substance, which managed to make her dizzy.
In addition to these forms, the expert points out that is it possible to mix any chemical substance in gel alcoholwhich would facilitate intoxication, since in most application cars, drivers usually leave a bottle of the product available to the passenger.
“As chloroform has a very strong chemical smell, in gel alcohol people can use other solvents, such as methanol, for example, [que pode causar o mesmo efeito] and the smell is not so strong”, explains the toxicologist.
How did the drivers manage to get through the poisoning unharmed?
In order not to be intoxicated by the chemicals either, drivers should be wearing N95 or PFF2 masks, equipment that became widely known during the pandemic for providing the proper seal and preventing the inhalation of contaminated air, either by chemicals or by viruses. However, it is not known whether the suspects in the aforementioned cases were wearing protective gear.
What damage can intoxication cause to health?
Intoxication caused by chemicals, whether from chloroform, ether, or methanol, can cause mental confusion, fainting, and even loss of consciousness.
“Our lung has a large absorption area, it is a very vascularized organ. These vapors, when inhaled, quickly reach the bloodstream and consequently reach the central nervous system. In the last century, these products were used as anesthetics by medicine. So, if the person inhales in large quantities, they can even go into a coma, because it depresses the central nervous system”, explains Luciana.
After being exposed to the substance, depending on the amount, the person has only a few minutes before losing consciousness. In order not to be a victim of doping attempts, the passenger should wear protective masks such as N95 or PFF2 when using application cars, recommends the toxicologist.
“Chloroform has a very characteristic odor, it is very strong, so as soon as the person smells a chemical product, they have to act quickly, open the door and leave, ask to stop, because in the next few minutes the passenger begins to feel a general malaise, to the point of losing the level of consciousness”, highlights the toxicologist.