Fundamental and applied toxicology : official journal of the Society of Toxicology

Disruption of auditory function by acute administration of a "room odorizer" containing butyl nitrite in rats.

PMID 2925018


Butyl nitrite is the predominant and presumed active ingredient in a variety of commercial preparations sold as "room odorizers." These compounds have significant abuse potential, giving the user the sensation of a "rush", which may be related to their intense cardiovascular effects. The pharmacological properties of butyl nitrites are similar to those of amyl nitrite which is also abused for its psychological effects, but whose availability is limited by prescription for treatment of angina. A significant body of literature suggests that the inner ear is vulnerable to acute hypoxic exposure. Since butyl nitrite induces high levels of methemoglobin and also reduces blood pressure due to peripheral vasodilation, we hypothesized that this compound might produce auditory dysfunction. We studied the effect of acute exposure to a butyl nitrite "room odorizer" on 10- and 40-kHz auditory function in rats. A loss in auditory sensitivity was found at both frequencies on the day following administration of the compound. Auditory dysfunction tended to subside over the next several days at 40 kHz, although a significant loss of sensitivity for tones of 10 kHz was observed over a 6-day period after administration of the agent. Methemoglobin levels measured in rats of the same age were elevated significantly 30 and 60 min after butyl nitrite to levels of 30-45%. Methemoglobin levels were found to be normal 18 hr after administration when the first audiometric tests were conducted. The data suggest that auditory function in the middle of the rats' auditory range, 10 kHz, was disrupted for a longer period than was high-frequency (40 kHz) auditory function.

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Butyl nitrite, 95%