The presence of Methanol-tainted alcohol in drinks is not a new problem in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Despite the government’s efforts to control the situation these last years, the problem in Vietnam is still there, causing many deaths and is still a serious health issue.
Last February 2017 more than 30 hospitalizations from Methanol tainted alcohol were reported in Lai Chau (northern province Vietnam) and seven new cases in Hanoi last February. And that’s only the reported cases. Symptoms of Methanol poisoning are often non-specific so the diagnosis can be challenging, and many poisonings and even outbreaks may pass unnoticed… Commercially-made spirits you buy in the supermarket are meant to be safe. In large companies, technologies are used to ensure that Methanol is separated from the Ethanol but what’s about drinks served in bars? Is the origin always checked and safe?
What’s Methanol, and how is it produced?
Methanol is a simple form of alcohol, like Ethanol; However, unlike Ethanol, Methanol is highly toxic and unfit for consumption. All distilled alcohol must be freed from the Methanol they contain. Completely, or for the most part. Unfortunately, the material used in artisanal or small productions in Asia is very rudimentary and does not make it always possible, and the methanol ends up in the glass.
How is Methanol harmful?
You can’t see methanol, smell or taste it. You will maybe understand that you swallowed Methanol when sick few hours later. When absorbed, it turns into Formic acid, and when it’s consume in large excess, the body does not know how to eliminate it and block the nervous system causing headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, kidney failure, heart problem, liver damage, nerve and brain damage, coma and death. Ten milliliters (two teaspoons) can blind a person; ingesting 30ml can kill.
What are the signs of Methanol poisoning?
The earliest evidence of Methanol poisoning can be difficult to distinguish from the natural effects of alcohol. The first hours, the symptoms developed are similar to alcohol intoxication and cause nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Then come the dangerous staff. From 10/12 hours, you start to develop a headache, vertigo, and blurred vision but the problem is that most of the time because you have been solidly drunk, you sleep. The ignorance of these problems can have serious consequences because it leads to misdiagnosis or critical delays in diagnosis and that can kill you.
How is methanol poisoning cured?
Quick seek medical help if you fear having been poisoned with Methanol. It can be cure by administration of Ethanol who stops the production of Formic acid. Fomepizole can also be used to inhibits the conversion of Methanol into toxic elements. Hemodialysis can be practice to clean it from the blood.