Washington: Following the trend of cough medicine, hand
sanitizer is the latest in a string of household items used to induce
intoxication and has public health officials worried as a few squirts of
it could equal a couple of shots of hard liquor.
As many as six California teenagers were hospitalized with
alcohol poisoning last month, and two last weekend alone, from
drinking hand sanitizer. “This is a rapidly emerging trend,” ABC
News quoted Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicology consultant for
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as saying.
About 2,600 cases have been reported in California since
2010, but it’s become a national problem.
“It’s not just localized to us,” Helen Arbogast, an injury
prevention coordinator in the trauma programme at Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles, said.
“Since 2009 we can see on YouTube it’s in all regions of the
country. We see it in the south, in the midwest, in the east,”
Liquid hand sanitizer is 62% to 65% ethyl alcohol, or
ethanol, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits, making
it 120-proof. To compare, a bottle of vodka is 80-proof. “A few
swigs is all it takes to get a person to get the intoxicated
effects of alcohol,” Rangan said.
According to doctors, ingesting hand sanitizer can produce
the same side effects as consuming large amounts of alcohol —
slurred speech, unresponsiveness, possibly falling into a coma
Rangan warned that long-term use could lead to brain, liver
and kidney damage. Teenagers use salt to break up the alcohol
from the sanitizer to get a more powerful dose. These
distillation instructions can be found on the internet in
tutorial videos that describe in detail how to do it.
Sean Nordt, director of toxicology at USC Los Angeles county
emergency department, said he used to get reports of children
accidentally consuming small amounts of hand sanitizer, but now
the trend is toward purposeful ingestion by those who cannot
purchase or obtain alcohol legally.