Researchers warn of methanol poisoning risk

by 19 July 2016 Last updated at 18:00 PM

VTV.vn - Researchers from Hà Nội Medical University have warned alcohol consumers about an increased risk of methanol poisoning from consuming improperly brewed homemade alcohol.

This follows an intensive study conducted by the researchers in the last three months.

The study on public understanding and practice about alcohol and methanol poisoning was conducted in the northern Phú Thọ Province by the Institute for Preventive Medicine and Public Health (IPMPH) under the university and Methanol Institute (MI), a Singapore-based trade association representing methanol producers, distributors and technology providers.

The study is part of the Việt Nam Methanol Education Programme funded by MI, in response to the sharp increase in methanol consumption in Việt Nam and the suspicion that the chemical, which is not meant for human consumption, is being used or found in alcohol–manufacturing processes.

IPMPH Director Lê Thị Hương said, while announcing the study findings on Tuesday, that Vietnamese consumers faced critical health risks by inadvertently consuming methanol through improperly brewed homemade alcohol, methanol-laced fake alcohol and legally produced alcohol adulterated with methanol.

Methanol is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world and is a building block for products such as building materials, car parts, plastic and paints.

Methanol intoxication can cause severe visual dysfunction and death.

The study found that while respondents had general knowledge about the effects of alcohol consumption, very few knew about methanol or the health risks of consuming adulterated drinks and/or improperly brewed homemade alcohol, which can lead to production of methanol during the brewing process.

Most of the surveyed healthcare providers, homemade alcohol producers and regulators lacked understanding about the causes of methanol poisoning, diagnosis and treatment methods.

The northern Phú Thọ Province has seven alcohol companies and more than 2,500 homemade alcohol producers, almost all of them operating without business licences. Each household can make 20 to 140 litres of alcohol per week. One member of the research team Phạm Bích Diệp said local alcohol producers made it with their own experience or by learning from the experiences of other people. They don’t have any technical equipment to measure alcohol levels or temperature, while methanol can be produced during the brewing process at 64.7 degrees Celsius.

She said the concentration of methanol found in tested samples were within the acceptable national limit of 2,000mg per ethanol at 100 degrees Celsius, but improper brewing processes and uncontrolled manufacturing conditions could pose risks.

Another researcher Đỗ Nam Khánh from Hà Nội Medical University said methanol was found to be illegally used to make liquor that is cheaper than those made with ethanol.

It was difficult to distinguish between symptoms of methanol poisoning and of being drunk after consuming normal liquor, he said.

Dom LaVinge, MI’s director of government and public affairs (Asia Pacific/Middle East), said the study by Hà Nội Medical University and a methanol education website operated by Poisoning Control Centre under Bạch Mai Hospital -methanol.chongdoc.org.vn - were important first steps towards providing reliable information and treatment options to protect Vietnamese consumers from the risks of adulterated and fake liquor.



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