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METHANOL POISONING IN KALLAKURICHI DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU



  Jun 26, 2024

METHANOL POISONING IN KALLAKURICHI DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU



What happened in Kallakurichi district?

In June 2024, at least 38 people died after consuming spurious liquor in Kallakurichi district, Tamil Nadu. Another 82 individuals were hospitalized. This incident echoes a similar tragedy from the previous year in Chengalpattu and Villupuram districts, where over 20 people died from methanol-laced liquor. The state government responded by transferring the district Collector, suspending the district superintendent of police, and deploying 2,000 police personnel to the district.

What is spurious liquor and why is it deadly?

Spurious liquor is illicitly produced alcohol often mixed with methanol to increase its intoxicating effect and volume. Methanol, a toxic alcohol, is not suitable for consumption. When ingested, methanol is metabolized by the liver into formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which can cause severe poisoning, leading to metabolic acidosis, optic neuropathy (which can result in blindness), cerebral edema, hemorrhage, and death.

Why is methanol added to liquor and how is it processed by the body?

Methanol is added to illicit liquor to enhance its ‘kick’ and increase the bulk volume. Once ingested, methanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes in the liver to formaldehyde, which is then converted to formic acid by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes. Formic acid accumulation leads to metabolic acidosis, damaging the optic nerve, kidneys, heart, and brain. Methanol poisoning can also cause permanent blindness and be fatal if not treated promptly.

How can methanol poisoning be treated?

Methanol poisoning can be treated through several methods:

1. Ethanol Administration: Pharmaceutical-grade ethanol competes with methanol for ADH enzymes, slowing methanol metabolism and reducing formaldehyde production.
2. Fomepizole Administration: This antidote inhibits ADH enzymes, reducing the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde and allowing safe excretion of methanol.
3. Dialysis: Removes methanol and formic acid salts from the blood, reducing damage to organs.
4. Folinic Acid: Encourages the breakdown of formic acid into carbon dioxide and water.

Both fomepizole and folinic acid are listed as essential medicines by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, availability and the need for expert supervision can limit the effectiveness of these treatments.

Why is methanol poisoning still a problem?

Methanol poisoning continues to be a problem due to inadequate regulation, economic pressures driving people to cheaper illicit alternatives, and lack of awareness about the dangers of spurious liquor. The Tamil Nadu government needs to enforce stricter regulations, improve public awareness, and provide affordable legal alcohol to mitigate the risks of methanol poisoning.


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