Make sure there's no methanol in your mampoer

Indiamart~

Over 100 people have died in Kenya after ingesting alcohol that contained industrial methylated spirits. Methanol, also known as wood alcohol or methyl alcohol is toxic to humans, except in very small quantities.

Read: Toxic liquor: Kenya sacks 52 officials

Methanol usually occurs naturally in very small digestible quantities in legal drinks, but in larger quantities (usually found in illegally brewed liquor) it can be a killer. Some people believe that it is the small quantity of methanol and acetone in alcoholic drinks that cause hangovers rather than the ethanol.

Read: The 6 stages of getting drunk

Methanol is a widely used industrial chemical that is found in anti-freeze, building materials, car parts, plastics and paints. Worldwide, more than 75 billion litres of methanol is produced and used in industrial setting each year.

Ethanol vs. methanol

The alcohol used in normal legally brewed and sold liquor is called ethyl alcohol orethanol. This only differs from methanol by one carbon and two hydrogen atoms, but it’s enough to cause a critical difference in the liver’s ability to metabolise it. Ethanol alcohol (in reasonable quantities) metabolises quickly into carbon dioxide and water, with which the body can cope easily. But the liver converts methanol into formaldehyde, which in turn causes a build-up of formic acid.

This quickly damages the ocular nerve, causing blindness. When taken in any significant quantities it can lead to death.

Other symptoms of methanol poisoning include drunkenness, headaches and gastric pain, vomiting, and liver failure. Symptoms take up to 12 -14 hours to manifest, whereas the symptoms of over-consumption of ethanol manifest much more quickly.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 2g of methanol is considered a safe dose, but 8g can be seriously toxic.

Why methanol?

The reasons why home-brewers sometimes use methanol instead of ethanol can be either greed or ignorance, or both. Methanol is cheaper than ethanol, and is sometimes stolen from manufacturing plants or farm storage rooms by people who are unaware of its lethal properties. They confuse it with normal ethanol. They either drink it themselves or use it to pad out illegally brewed liquor to increase their profit margins. Producers of legally retailed alcohol often have to pay high government taxes, whereas home brewers slip through the net.

To discourage people from consuming industrial products containing normal ethanol, methanol is sometimes added. The result is known as methylated spirits. The drink is then not fit for human consumption.

Who controls alcohol production in SA?

The production of alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs is controlled in South Africa by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but it is generally accepted that much home-brewed liquor is sold in unlicensed liquor outlets. It is usually from these sources that methanol-laced alcohol finds its way onto the market. This tends to be a worldwide phenomenon.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2005, South African adult per capita alcohol consumption equalled 9.5 litres of pure alcohol. Of this, 26,3% was estimated to be homemade and illegally produced alcohol. The world average of alcohol consumption per capita is 6,13 litres, making South African consumption above average.

Sources:Livescience.org/ National Institutes of Health/ methanol.org/ Health24.com/ ara.co.za/ Sapa)

Read more:

All about alcoholism

Poisoning
Death in a bottle
Foods that could kill you

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 357 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 4434 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
12% - 628 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.09
-0.8%
Rand - Pound
20.21
-0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.74
-0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.59
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.1%
Gold
1,660.90
0.0%
Silver
19.03
0.0%
Palladium
2,166.50
0.0%
Platinum
864.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,390
+0.8%
All Share
63,726
+0.7%
Resource 10
60,230
+0.7%
Industrial 25
77,400
+0.8%
Financial 15
13,796
+0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE