Font Size: A A A
Page Colours:

Current Hot Topic for August 2017

Methanol Poisoning Warning


Methanol Poisoning Warning

Background Story

British backpacker Cheznye Emmons, 23, died after drinking gin which had been mixed with methanol. She bought the counterfeit gin from a shop in a sealed bottle sporting a familiar brand while travelling in Indonesia in 2013. Cheznye first showed signs of methanol poisoning when she woke up a day after drinking the fake gin unable to see. She died five days later in hospital.

In September 2016, a British tourist was left blind after drinking a cocktail suspected of being laced with cheap alcohol while on holiday in Greece. Hannah Powell, 20, collapsed with kidney failure after partying with friends on the island of Zakynthos. After an evening in the bars drinking cocktails, she went to bed, slept 48 hours and woke up unable to see. Doctors do not yet know if her kidneys or eyesight will return to normal. The Greek press have claimed Ms Powell has suffered methanol poisoning from cheap alcohol added to her drinks.  

A public health alert was issued in March 2017 after a man, who was seriously ill in a Dublin hospital, was given fake alcohol. The HSE said the patient drank liquid from a vodka bottle- bought from an unrecognised vendor in Ballymun - which turned out to be filled with the highly-toxic methanol. The HSE has now issued a public health alert about the consumption of fake or counterfeit alcohol. The police in Ballymun and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are investigating the incident.

American tourists have shared their experiences of being served bootleg alcohol whilst on holiday at all-inclusive Cancun resorts. Two teenage brothers from Minnesota said they were on vacation with their parents when they woke up covered in mud, with no shirts or shoes on and their wallets and mobile phones missing. A Wisconsin woman said she was sexually assaulted while both she and her husband were unconscious, and her husband woke up with a broken hand. One case involved the death of Abbey Conner, 20, from Wisconsin, who was on a vacation with her mother, her stepfather and her brother in January. She and her older brother, Austin, were found face down in the pool unconscious shortly after they arrived. Abbey was declared brain dead and was taken off life support.

Austin survived but suffered an injury to his forehead and a severe concussion with no memory of what occurred. An attorney hired by the family, has raised suspicions, claiming that the hotel was ‘serving alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks’.

Methanol is a colourless liquid with a mild alcohol odour. When ingested, it is extremely poisonous and is known to cause blindness, kidney failure, seizures and death. The chemical is deliberately added to strengthen or stretch illegal alcoholic drinks, especially spirits.  

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have provided advice for the purchasing of alcohol:

  • Only buy alcohol from a recognised shop, off-license or licensed premises; and ensure it is labelled. Check branded products for labels that are poorly printed or with errors, or bottles with broken seals. Do not buy these.
  • If the price of your alcoholic drink looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be suspicious of alcoholic drinks offered for sale in informal settings that are not licensed to sell alcohol, such as market stalls.
  • If you bought alcohol from an unrecognised seller, do not drink it. Hand the bottle in to your local police station to help in the investigation of this incident.

Vulnerability associated with Alcohol - One woman in the article was sexually assaulted after becoming unconscious due to poisoning and her husband was a victim of physical abuse. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of alcohol. Like many substances, alcohol can inhibit a person’s mental and physical abilities. Alcohol can make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that an assault occurred. Consent is a big issue where this is concerned. “Consent is … beautiful, it is enthusiasm, it is free choice, it is mutual. It is NOT assumed, NOT a right of marriage, NOT in the clothes you wear.” According to the NHS, one in 13 people in the United Kingdom suffer from alcoholism. Even among people who are not dependent on alcohol, a sizeable proportion drink too much. Consuming alcohol in any form can be damaging to health but could also put you at risk. It is important to be aware of how to keep safe whilst drinking alcohol or when with others who are drinking alcohol. What steps can you take to protect yourself from becoming vulnerable whilst consuming alcohol? Could you identify the signs that suggest an individual may have issues with alcohol or an addiction to alcohol? Do you know what consent is? Research into the ‘Tea Consent’ video for a clear definition that is easy to understand.

Age Stereotypes - Young people are often stigmatised with heavy drinking and drink bingeing. This is often enhanced by popular television programmes such as ‘Ibiza Weekender’ and ‘Geordie Shore’, portraying young adults consuming large amounts of alcohol. In 2015, there were 8758 alcohol-related deaths, however the highest mortality rates were among people aged 55-64. The number of people aged 69-74 admitted to hospitals in England with mental and behavioural disorders associated with alcohol use has risen by over 150% in the past decade, while the figure for 15-59 years old has increased by 94%. What is your opinion of the portrayal of young people in the media? Why do you think the highest mortality rates are those among people aged 55-64?

Methanol Poisoning - The first signs of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, feeling unsteady and loss of inhibition, but these are often confused with the effects of drinking alcohol and may not be noticed. It can be several hours before the major symptoms of methanol poisoning appear, including headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, feeling breathless, impaired vision and, in severe cases, blindness. Without prompt treatment, the poison will continue to build up and can lead to convulsions, coma and death, Patients who survive may suffer permanent visual impairment. What steps would you take if you were to find someone ill through alcohol use? Could you recognise if you or another were suffering from these effects at an early stage?

Rule of Law - Trading Standards is a local government service that works to protect consumers; they are responsible for a wide range of laws governing products and services. In July 2014, Trading Standards removed 43 bottles of whisky and vodka (including brands High Commissioner, Smirnoff, Glens and Selekt Vodka) following complaints that the Selekt Vodka “tasted bad”. Tests revealed it was unsafe for human consumption and that it was contaminated with industrial grade solvents. What would you do if you believe you have purchased unsafe alcohol? What steps do you believe you should take in the future before consuming purchased alcohol?

European Union Social Fund
Skills Funding Agency
Matrix Accreditation
City and Guilds
Edexcel Pearson

Today is: Queenship of Mary Day Learn More