Citizen reporter
1 minute read
7 May 2020
10:48 am

Desperate alcoholics turning to hand sanitiser, says poisons expert

Citizen reporter

Drinking hand sanitiser can get you drunk, but it's also full of potentially lethal chemicals.

Make sure your sanitiser is SABS approved. Picture: iStock

Alcohol poisoning is growing rapidly during lockdown as hardened drinkers looking for alcohol have been resorting to any source of the substance, says a poisons expert.

“There’s been quite a surge in alcohol poisoning since the lockdown,” says the Griffon Poison Information Centre’s Gerhard Verdoorn, who was speaking to eNCA.

Earlier this week, a couple from Port Nolloth died after reportedly drinking homemade liquor.

Many people have been brewing their own liquor during lockdown, but some who are heavily addicted are turning to any source for a quick hit.

Some hand sanitisers advertise themselves as containing up to 70% alcohol. But not all alcohol is the same.

Verdoorn says there are two types of alcohol found in sanitisers, one is ethanol which is found in alcoholic beverages, and the other is isopropyl, which is usually used as a disinfectant.

“Both of these will give you a fix. Ethanol will give you a better fix, but the isopropyl can be quite toxic to very toxic. There might also be ethylene glycol [in sanitisers], which is absolutely toxic to human beings.”

Ethylene glycol is often found in car anti-freeze and is sometimes used as a high-intensity alcohol substitute, resulting in over 5,000 poisonings a year in the US.

The Beer Association of South Africa, which represents the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken and South African Breweries recently called for the legal selling of beer to resume, in part to try stem the making of illicit alcohol during the lockdown.

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