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Polymer Fume Fever and Cigarette Smoking

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▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to David H. Wegman, M.D., Department of Physiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115.

Boston, Massachusetts

Ann Intern Med. 1974;81(1):55-57. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-81-1-55
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An outbreak of an influenza-like syndrome occurred in a Massachusetts textile mill producing imitation crushed velvet. The production process included the application of a fluorocarbon polymer. Seven of 13 employees reported symptoms of cough, fever, chills, aching and weakness, and 4 reported shortness of breath. Those with the syndrome, identified as polymer fume fever, were all smokers, whereas most of those without symptoms were nonsmokers. Since curing temperatures were too low to produce toxic pyrolysis products, it is believed that exposure was via contamination of cigarettes. The temperature of burning cigarettes, 875 °C, was sufficient to produce the pyrolysis products responsible for the symptoms of polymer fume fever. Work practices were changed to require hand washing before smoking, and no illness was subsequently reported. Polymer fume fever should be included in the differential diagnosis of fevers of unknown origin in working persons.


smoking ; fever ; polymers





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