You’d think that someone drinking hand sanitizer was obsessed with keeping their insides as clean as their outsides. But no, in a disturbing new trend, teenagers are actually consuming the alcohol-based liquid as a cheap substitute for liquor. Since kids don’t have access to alcohol, they are actually using the chemical cleaning agent to get drunk.
Recently, six teenagers were brought into San Fernando Valley emergency rooms for alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizer consumption. This got public health officials worried so they started issuing warnings to parents and teachers about the hazards involved with ingesting hand sanitizers. According to Cyrus Rangan, a medical toxicology consultant at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, “All it takes is a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager.” He believes that although the practice isn’t widespread yet, it has all the potential to balloon into a huge issue. Since hand sanitizer bottles are very easily available and inexpensive, the trend couldn’t take very long to catch up. It doesn’t help that distillation instructions are easily available on the internet; kids can separate the alcohol from the sanitizing liquid with just a little salt.
A lot of people aren’t aware that hand sanitizers contain 62% ethyl alcohol. A few drinks are equivalent to consuming hard liquor and could get a person’s speech to slur and stomach to burn. Apparently, kids get so drunk they have to be brought in to the emergency room. Unfortunately, the consumption of hand sanitizer is only the latest of several other substances that teenagers have consumed as an alcohol substitute. “Over the years, they’ve ingested all sorts of things. Cough syrup had reached a very sexy point where young people were using it,” says Helen Arbogast, the injury prevention coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “We want to make sure this doesn’t take on the same trend.” A while ago, we also featured two very disturbing trends teens seem to be using to get intoxicated faster: vodka eyeballing and using alcohol-soaked tampons.
Parents are currently being educated about the hazards of being careless with hand sanitizers, since awareness is the first step to prevention. The popular hygiene product is a risk, no matter what the size of the bottle. If it must be purchased, it’s better to go for the foam version instead of the gel type, advise several health care professionals. It’s harder to separate alcohol from the foam type, so it’s less likely to be consumed. Also, the chemical mustn’t be left around the house and its use must be supervised at all times. If only good old soap would be as practical to use anywhere, like this alcohol-based hand sanitizer.