Most hydrocarbons are produced from petroleum distillation, which results in predominantly aliphatic (open-chain) mixtures of hydrocarbons of different chain lengths. Gasoline, for instance, consists of approximately 80 percent saturated and unsaturated aliphatic hydrocarbons of chain length C 4 to C10 and 20 percent aromatic hydrocarbons. Chain length determines the phase of the hydrocarbon at room temperature. Short-chain aliphatic compounds, such as methane, propane, or butane, are gases; long-chain aliphatic compounds, such as tar, are solids. Intermediate-chain (C 5 to C15) aliphatic compounds are in liquid form and account for most hydrocarbon exposures seen in the emergency department (T.a.bl.e..,1.7,4:.,1). Pulmonary toxicity secondary to aspiration is the most common complication from ingesting liquid aliphatic hydrocarbons.
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