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There have been a significant number of deaths linked to methanol poisoning due to home-brewed alcohol in recent years. A study claimed that drinking fermented alcoholic beverages with high levels of this chemical caused the deaths.
Commercially made spirits are usually safe since manufacturers of these products use technology that separates methanol from ethanol, thereby making the drinks nontoxic. Homebrew systems, however, are not technically advanced, making the separation of the chemicals impossible to do.
What is Methanol?
Methanol consists of four parts hydrogen, one-part oxygen and one-part carbon. Also referred to as methyl alcohol, the colorless liquid is flammable, toxic and volatile. It is considered poisonous to humans when consumed, as per Chemical Safety Facts. It burns without color or smoke, so it is basically invisible in daylight.
The air could also contain traces of methanol as a result of burning waste, paint, car emissions and solvent fumes. Methanol can also be found in cigarette smoke and contaminated waterways.
Side Effects of Methanol
According to the Journal of Medicine and Life: methanol intoxication happens when you ingest dangerous levels of the chemical either by intention, suicide or after attempted inebriation. Alcoholics and prisoners are at a higher risk of ingesting dangerous levels of methanol since they substitute ethanol with methanol-containing substances.
You may also be intoxicated by the chemical through inhalation, eye contact or skin contact the latter causes dermatitis. Short-term inhalation exposure to methanol from breathing may cause acid in the blood that results in visual problems that lead to blindness, neurological damage, headache and dizziness, nausea and vomiting, seizures, movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, loss of smell and even death. Long-term but subtle exposure causes loss of consciousness, coma, seizure or death, insomnia, brain and nervous system damage and birth defects.
According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, you are most likely suffering from methanol poisoning if you drink pure methanol. Some of its symptoms include breathing difficulty, blurred vision, pupil dilation, weakness and fatigue, weakness, leg cramps, low blood pressure, confusion, agitated behavior, dizziness, difficulty walking, bluish-colored lips and fingernails, diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal pain, liver problems such as jaundice and bleeding, pancreatitis vomiting of blood, seizures and coma.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hemodialysis is the best treatment for patients who have accidentally consumed methanol or isopropyl alcohol. The method filters waste and toxins in your system and speeds up the removal of alcohol from your bloodstream.
Letter to the FDA 30 years ago from Dr. James Bowen: