Several California teens have been hospitalized after drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, reports state. The teens were able to separate the alcohol from the rest of the fluid using salt, in what doctors fear may be a fast-spreading trend.
"All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager," Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county health department told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no question that it is dangerous."
According to Rangan, drinking the salty hand sanitizer is the same as having a shot of hard liquor, which could prove fatal for teens who drink too much. Because the hand sanitizer is so cheap, and available nearly anywhere, there is worry that more teens will learn how to separate the mixture and become drunk.
"It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor," Rangan said. Once separated, the alcohol found in hand sanitizers is 120-proof, well above the normal range for alcohol. Teens who ingest too much would require hospitalization and intense monitoring.
The trend is not limited to California. Dr. Robert Glatter of the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has seen cases of teens drunk on the substance. "They denied drinking any 'alcohol,' had no smell of alcohol on their breath, but when their blood alcohol [level] was quite elevated, they later admitted to drinking the hand sanitizer," he told HealthPop.
"Officials in institutions where these products are available-including hospitals, schools, offices, health clubs, and daycare centers-have a duty to inform people about the alcohol content in these products, and subsequent dangers if ingested," he added.
Anyone with children is encouraged to buy the foam-based sanitizers, rather than liquid since they are harder to extract alcohol from.