Dealing with the Toxicity of Methyl Alcohol
“Hooch claims 18 in capital” “Killer Sura claims 120.” “Sura toll rises to 146” “78 die in Bombay Hooch tragedy” ...and the list continues. Hooch, sura, desi daru, khopdi, lattha etc. Only the names differ, but the outcome remains the same... Hundreds of people lose their lives and more become blind. The killer is nothing other than methyl alcohol. Methyl alcohol is also called wood alcohol, wood spirit, wood naphtha, pyroxylic spirit or methanol. Methanol is obtained by destructive distillation of wood or molasses, and is used as a solvent for shellac, gums, fats and varnishes, for cinematography films and also as an anti-freeze. It is also used for denaturing rectified spirit so as to render it undrinkable.
Methyl alcohol in any form is poisonous. With a view to ake denatured spirit nauseating and abhorrent for potable use, the government had tried many methods to restrict its use among degenerate drinkers but with little success. To mention a few:
- Addition of 0.5% naphthalene.
- All bottles and jars containing denatured spirit to bear a label printed in red marked, “poison”, with a skull and cross ones in the center,
- A warning, “for external use only, not to be taken internally”, in English and the regional language of the district.
Recently, one more method in addition to the above is being tried, and that is of introduction of coloring matter (methyl violet). However, even that has proved fruitless as filtration of this colored denatured spirit through charcoal or half a loaf of bread, extracts the color and leaves a highly toxic clear fluid.