Coordinated Health


Photographic fixatives are chemicals used to develop photographs.

This article discusses poisoning from swallowing such chemicals.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Photographic developer poisoning; Hydroquinone poisoning; Quinone poisoning; Sulfite poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Hydroquinones
  • Quinones
  • Sodium thiosulfate
  • Sodium sulfite/bisulfite
  • Boric acid

Photographic fixative can also break down (decompose) to form sulfur dioxide gas.

Where Found

These chemicals are found in products used to develop photographs.


  • Abdominal pain
  • Burning pain in the throat
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning in the eye
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea (watery, bloody, green-blue colored)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin rash
  • Stupor
  • Vomiting

Home Treatment

Seek immediate emergency medical help. Do NOT make the person throw up. Give water or milk unless the patient is unconscious or experiencing convulsions. Contact poison control for further guidance.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition
  • Name of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center – emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done. The patient may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Endoscopy — camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Expectations (prognosis)

How well the patient does depends on how much of the poison was swallowed and how quickly the patient received medical help. Swallowing these products can cause severe effects on many parts of the body. The faster treatment is received, the greater the chance of recovery.