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Health expert’s warning about tainted alcohol

The State Department has issued warnings about tainted alcohol in Mexico since December.

The issue gained attention in 2017 during the spring and summer months after multiple reports of people getting sick after they drank alcohol while in the country. Shortly after, a warning was issued.

A local health expert at IU Health said methanol is a problem because you do not have to be very intoxicated for it to have serious side effects.

“It does not take very much of methanol to cause problems. As little as 2 ounces of pure methanol could be a problem. The side effects that we see, it actually effects the acid based status in the body so your blood becomes very acidotic. It can effect your vision, people have become blind from taking methanol and in very severe cases, you can have bleeding into the brain and in cases even death,” said IU Health Toxicologist Jim Mowry.

Methanol results from the distilling process when producers try to reduce operating costs.

“You have people trying to make low-cost alcohol and they don’t have very good technique and so when they distill it can be distilled not to just ethyl alcohol which is what we want but also to methyl alcohol or methanol,” Mowry added.

He said tourists who plan to travel to Mexico need to be aware of this problem. Drink brands that are trusted, and always watch the bartender pour the drink.

“If a deal seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. If you go somewhere and they offer unlimited alcohol, it’s probably not going to be the highest quality so if you’re going to drink obviously drink responsibly.”

Mowry said when ingested methanol breaks down into formaldehyde before it rapidly gets metabolized into formic acid, which is a metabolic poison.