ACETYLSALICYLIC acid and the other salicylates are among the least toxic of the commonly used active pharmacopeial preparations. Clinical reports of salicylate intoxication are relatively infrequent, though the quantities of these medicaments consumed throughout the world in the past fifty years have been enormous. The apparently benign status of these preparations, however, should not obscure the fact that certain grave hazards may be incurred when their use is abused.1
Most of the deaths reported have been caused by ingestion of methyl salicylate (oil of sweet birch, oil of wintergreen, oil of gaultheria, oil of betula) either accidentally or with suicidal intent. Methyl salicylate both in natural and in synthetic form is more toxic than other salicyl compounds in equivalent doses. In an analysis of 43 previously reported cases of methyl salicylate poisoning, in 41 per cent of which the patients were infants, the mortality rate was 59 per cent.