I bleed Dexron
December 3, 2010 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Transmission fluid on cut, will I die?

I'm a mechanic, which means my hands take a pretty good beating of scratches and scrapes. Normally it's not a big deal, but today we were filling a spray bottle from a bulk drum of Dexron and the genius with the siphon decided that he wasn't satisfied with full to the brim and gives it a few more pumps for good measure. There is now just as much on my arm and floor as in the bottle, and the knuckle missing a layer of skin stings pretty F'n bad. I realize this isn't the best thing to be in your bloodstream, so I say something about it but the only response I get is "Hahaha, instant cancer death!" and no one seemed too worried so I clean up with some isopropyl and go on my way. I keep thinking about it in the back of my mind though - whether or not it seeped into my veins and the fact that the body is designed to circulate blood, not transmission fluid. I didn't pour a gallon of it into an open knife wound, so I'm not super worried but still would feel better after hearing from someone that actually knows what they're talking about, and can feed my curiosity as to exactly what's going on in my body right now.

So in summary, here's my two part question:
1. Will I wake up tommorow morning if I go to sleep tonight?
2. Whats happening to all the transmission fluid in my blood - is it being filtered out by my liver or pooling up in my feet?
posted by LarrenD to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call poison control. 1-800-222-1222
posted by schmod at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Your local poison control hotline will happily tell you what to do to take care of yourself if you give them a call.

(I suspect you'll be fine, but it's better to check in with the experts.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2010

The gubmint says you'll be fine unless you're drinking gallons of the stuff.
posted by foodgeek at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have no idea, but these folks should:

American Association of Poison Control Centers hotline
posted by clorox at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2010

Your employer should have a copy of the Materials Safety Data Sheet on-hand for that product. If they don't have it you should be able to find it on the manufacturer's website. Start there.

But no, you probably won't die.
posted by bondcliff at 10:30 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm in Iraq right now, so there's a pretty good language barrier between me and my local poison control center if such a thing exists. I'm also pretty sure that we're supposed to have an MSDS book somewhere but am willing to say that that doesn't exist either.

Foodgeek's link puts my mind at ease, but I'd still like to hear from anyone with med school knowledge as to what happens to non-blood stuff that gets into your blood.
posted by LarrenD at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2010

You would have to inject directly into a vein for a significant amount of oil to enter your bloodstream. With surface wounds, blood seeps out and oil won't magically get sucked into circulation. You'll absorb more of it everyday just through the pores of your skin -- and on a short-term basis your liver can easily process that; on a long-term basis it can't be good for you.
posted by randomstriker at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2010

IANAD, but I have some med-school-level knowledge about what happens to non-blood stuff that gets in your blood.

Here's the MSDS for Dexron VI, obtained by googling "msds dexron transmission fluid" -- not sure if that's the right thing or not, but I'm assuming it's pretty close.

It looks like it probably isn't the awesomest thing in the world to have on your hands, because it can irritate them. Probably getting an irritant onto an already-abraded area made it more irritated, which is why it stung like a bitch, but it's not going to give you cancer. The thing to worry about is, apparently, having a very high-velocity stream of it penetrate your skin -- again, REALLY UNLIKELY for this to happen from a guy with a siphon. It looks to me (from reading the MSDS and extrapolating) like if you actually inject it under your skin, that it can essentially form a deposit like an under-the-skin tarball in your hand, which makes it so that the cells in your hand can't receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood. This could be dangerous. But if you aren't experiencing "pain, discoloration, and swelling" in your hand, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by kataclysm at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have done similar and much, much worse. Never had any ill effects from any of it - accidentally swallowing petrol, grease and oil on my hands while eating, used engine oil in my eye, brake cleaner in eyes and pretty deep cuts (man, THAT stings) and all other vehicular options. Honestly, you are totally fine and it only seems so serious because you are worried about it so much. Wash your hands a couple of times, then ignore it. No significant amount of anything will 'seep into your bloodstream' through a knuckle that is missing a bit of skin.
posted by Brockles at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, if kills you, then I'm totally dead like a bunch of times.
posted by cmoj at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2010

Also, addressing the 'how much is in my blood stream' thing - seriously, it'll be almost nothing. Your blood is pressurised, so it's more likely that blood will come out than stuff will go in. Yes, an open wound may get infected, but a skinned knuckle (even a bleeding one) doesn't qualify as that, really.
posted by Brockles at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: I guess I have to learn to phrase questions a little better. The first part was an honest question and I wanted your answers, but I was pretty sure I was going to be alright and was being facetious about the dying, so apologies for that.

The second part of the question is the one I'm more interested in, and more out of curiousity about the body than fear for my own safety.
posted by LarrenD at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2010

2. Whats happening to all the transmission fluid in my blood

Not a doctor, but your body's bloodstream is under positive pressure; the blood is forcing its way out, so it's unlikely any fluid actually got into your bloodstream.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi LarrenD:

IANYD, but toxic non-blood substances that get into your blood have to be excreted through a limited number of mechanisms. The main ones for most chemicals are that they get filtered by the kidney and excreted in your urine, or they get filtered by the liver and biliary system. Hydrocarbons, like the paraffin/oil in the transmission fluid, can also be exhaled from your lungs, because they are volatile.

Here's a little primer on toxicology if you're curious. You need to know some basic chemistry and physiology to understand this one.

And just to add my voice to the chorus, I don't think you have anything to worry about from this exposure because of how minimal it was.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, the cancer warnings about motor oil are (were?) specifically about used oils, because of all the horrifying things concentrated in there from thousands of miles of driving.

Transmission fluid is just light weight motor oil with red dye and various dispersants and viscosity improvers (other weights of oils).

Incidental contact is no big deal for almost anything. You probably get more exposure to oil molecules getting inside you from not wearing gloves (if you don't) and breathing the air. No worries.
posted by gjc at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2010

FWIW, I'm no worse for the wear after accidentally taking a sip of the stuff. That was ten years ago.

Even though it looks pink and fruity, it doesn't taste like it. I drank it so you don't have to.

(I didn't intend to take that sip...sometimes things happen when you're draining the transmission fluid on your friend's girlfriend's car.)
posted by desl at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2010

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