Dirty little secret: LA teens are distilling hand sanitizer and drinking it

Local teens are ending up in emergency rooms after consuming of alcohol from hand sanitizing gels.
Local teens are ending up in emergency rooms after consuming of alcohol from hand sanitizing gels. Photo by Myrone Delacruz via Flickr Creative Commons

California teenagers have figured out a new way to get high: the alcohol from hand sanitizers.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles say they’re seeing a growing number of emergency room cases involving severely intoxicated teens who get their alcohol from hand sanitizing gels.

Hand sanitizers are about 62 percent alcohol, and when the gel cleanser is distilled with table salt, the result is a 120-proof hit. That’s about 50 percent more than a typical 80-proof vodka or tequila.

Dr. Cyrus Rangan, a medical toxicologist with Childern’s Hospital says that since 2010 about 60 teens have been hospitalized from drinking sanitizer alcohol. And now the practice appears to be on the rise — with 16 new cases reported in L.A, County alone since March.

"So we know that it’s not only a rapidly emerging problem, but a problem that is sustaining itself," Rangan explained. "And because of the easy obtainability and accessibility of these products, we’re likely to see it hanging around awhile."

Rangan advises concerned parents to buy the foam variety of hand sanitizer… it’s harder to distill into alcohol than the gel. Better yet, he says, buy sanitizers that contain no alcohol at all.

blog comments powered by Disqus