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Journal Article


Lachenmeier DW, Rehm JT, Gmel G. Alcohol Clin. Exp. Res. 2007; 31(10): 1613-1624.


Chemisches und Veterinaruntersuchungsamt (CVUA) Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany.


(Copyright © 2007, John Wiley and Sons)






Background: Consumption of surrogate alcohols (i.e., nonbeverage alcohols and illegally produced alcohols) was shown to impact on different causes of death, not only poisoning or liver disease, and appears to be a major public health problem in Russia and elsewhere. Methods: A computer-assisted literature review on chemical composition and health consequences of "surrogate alcohol" was conducted and more than 70 references were identified. A wider definition of the term "surrogate alcohol" was derived, including both nonbeverage alcohols and illegally produced alcohols that contain nonbeverage alcohols. Results: Surrogate alcohol may contain substances that cause severe health consequences including death. Known toxic constituents include lead, which may lead to chronic toxicity, and methanol, which leads to acute poisoning. On the other hand, the role of higher alcohols (e.g., propanol, isobutanol, and isoamyl alcohol) in the etiology of surrogate-associated diseases is currently unclear. Whether other constituents of surrogates have contributed to the high all-cause mortality over and above the effect of ethanol in recent studies also remains unclear. Conclusions: Given the high public health importance associated with the consumption of surrogate alcohols, further knowledge on its chemical composition is required as well as research on its links to various disease endpoints should be undertaken with priority. Some interventions to reduce the harm resulting from surrogate alcohol could be undertaken already at this point. For example, the use of methanol or methanol-containing wood alcohol should be abolished in denatured alcohol. Other possible surrogates (e.g., automobile products) should be treated with bittering agents to avoid consumption.

Language: en


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