In South America, the poison of adulterated alcohol – Liberation

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More than a hundred deaths were recorded in two months in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. All had consumed drinks illegally added to methanol, clandestine for the majority, but for some resulting from the legal trade.

Sold in supermarkets throughout Colombia, the appetizer “seasoned with brandy” King of Kings (“The King of Kings”) was pulled from retail stores this month. The health authorities warned about the presence of methanol in certain bottles and recommended that the population refrain from consuming it. “Methanol is a toxic substance that can cause damage to the nervous system, blurred vision, blindness, breathing difficulties, coma states and even death,” The City of Bogotá warned on December 9 in a message posted on social networks.

The risks associated with the consumption of artisanal (and illegal) distilled beverages have been known for a long time, causing thousands of deaths each year in poor countries on all continents. But the last wave in Colombia surprised specialists with its magnitude. According to official sources, 37 people died in Bogotá due to methanol poisoning. And three more in Soacha, on the outskirts of the capital.

The idea that artisanal alcohol circulates mostly in the countryside is therefore undermined. The other novelty is the presence among the incriminated products which are no longer of twist-guts sold under the fur, but of legal and firmly established brands, such as Rey de Reyes or whiskey local Old John, produced in the department of Tolima and welcomed by young people (a punk-rap group even dedicated hymn). The majority of poisonings, however, come from illegal liquors and spirits.

Deaths from methanol ingestion have also been reported in neighboring countries. In Ecuador, 20 fatal poisonings were reported in October. Twelve of them concerned participants in a funeral wake. In Peru, the same month, more than 50 deaths were noted, due to sodas added to methyl alcohol sold in the informal trade.

From Morocco to India

Methyl alcohol is an industrial component used in particular as a solvent and obtained by distilling wood. It is not good for consumption, however it is widely used in the world to make alcohol at a lower price, but with high health risks. In northern Morocco in September, 19 people died after drinking contraband alcohol bought from the same grocery store in Ksar-el-Kebir, near Tangier.

In Bihar in India, one of the three states in the Union subject to the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol, at least 37 people died in December after consuming trafficked alcohol. The “dry law” imposed in 2016 in this region of 125 million inhabitants has stimulated the black market and increased travel to neighboring Nepal, where alcohol is sold over the counter.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is responsible for more than 3 million deaths per year, or 5% of global mortality (7.1% for men and 2.2% for women), but 10% in the age category 15-49. In his last annual report, the UN agency mentions road accidents and cardiovascular diseases as the main culprits of deaths linked to alcohol abuse. The harmful effects of adulterated drinks occupy a small part in this assessment.


Source: Liberation from www.liberation.fr.

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