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Bootleg Liquor Tainted with Methanol Kills 143 People in India

Fri December 16 2011 7:14 am
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A tainted batch of bootleg liquor killed 143 people and sent dozens more to the hospital in villages outside the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Thursday, officials said.

A group of day laborers in Sangrampur, India bought liquor at a cheap price, but suddenly became ill after drinking the bootleg liquor spiked with methanol, an poison ingredient of anti-freeze.

After drinking the poison, victims immediately started suffering from headaches and vomiting, and started foaming at the mouth.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH. Methanol is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol (drinking alcohol, CH3-CH2-OH). Methanol has one methyl group, while ethanol has and a longer carbon backone by one Carbon atom. At room temperature, methanol is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol.

As little as 10 mL of pure methanol can cause permanent blindness by destroying the optic nerve. Ingestion of 30 mL of methanol is potentially fatal.

The initial symptoms of methanol exposure are usually less severe than the symptoms resulting from the ingestion of the same quantity of an ethanol alcohol beverage. Once the initial symptoms of methanol intoxication have passed, a second set of symptoms arises about 10 to 30 hours after the initial exposure to methanol. The symptoms include visual disturbance, blurring or complete loss of vision and acidosis. Formic acid builds up to toxic levels with metabolic acidosis and results in death from respiratory failure. Formate (formic acid) also blocks cellular respiration at the cytochrome c oxidase enzyme — the same process that causes death in cyanide poisoning.

Ironically, one of the treatments of methanol poisoning is intravenous treatment with ethanol (pharmaceutical grade) — the alcohol used for drinking alcohol. Antidotes are most successful if given early, before clinically significant amounts of formate are produced.

Methanol has no relation to Meth, as in methamphetamine.

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  • Current Conditions : 34.9F, Overcast - 2:03 PM CST Nov. 17
    Temperature: 34.9°F | Humidity: 85% | Pressure: 30.32in ( Falling) | Conditions: Overcast | Wind Direction: ESE | Wind Speed: 0mph
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    Tonight - Cloudy. Chance of light rain and snow mainly south and near the lake. Lows in the upper 20s in the suburbs...but in the lower to mid 30s downtown. North winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation 30 percent.
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    Today - Light snow in the morning, then a chance of light rain and light snow in the afternoon. Snow accumulation up to 1 to 2 inches. Highs in the mid 30s. Northwest winds 5 to 10 mph becoming north 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 100 percent.
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    Sunday - Cloudy in the morning then clearing. Highs in the mid 30s. Northwest winds 5 to 10 mph in the morning becoming west in the afternoon.