Many people in Irkutsk, Siberia, died because they consumed a dangerous alcohol substitute which was much cheaper than vodka.
More precisely, 49 residents died Monday shortly after drinking the surrogate alcohol. Back in the 1980s when Mikhail S. Gorbachev prohibited the distribution of vodka and other alcoholic beverages, many people started drinking antifreeze, window cleaners, and after-shave.
The locals in Irkutsk did the same thing this time, but because they couldn’t afford to buy vodka. This city which has around 620,000 residents is close to Lake Baikal, and it used to be an important industrial center.
However, the local economy collapsed along with the Soviet Union. The investigators established that the locals had drunk scent bath lotion which contained methanol. This dangerous chemical is much cheaper than ethanol, and it is used to replace it in some products.
On the other hand, ethanol is also used in alcoholic beverages. According to Stanislav Zubovsky, one of the local prosecutors, 57 people visited the hospital last week. The bath lotion was sold in local markets for roughly $1 a bottle.
It is worth mentioning that a 500ml-bootle of vodka is around $3, so the locals decided to go for the cheaper alternative without being aware of the risks. Methanol is used as antifreeze and it is very toxic.
Although the bottles were labeled as not safe for consumption, those who bought them on a regular basis didn’t care much, based on the latest reports. The investigators detained seven suspects who might have distributed the bath lotion.
Also, they found a workshop where the dangerous chemical was produced. After the incident, around two thousand bottles of bath lotion containing methanol were seized from the stores. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is a major public health concern in Russia.
According to the statistics, alcohol abuse has caused the premature deaths of 15% of women and 30% of men throughout the country. The Prime Minister requests the government to take actives measures to control the distribution of cheap perfumes and any other products which contain alcohol or alcohol substitutes.
He said that the current situation is an utter disgrace which must be ended as soon as possible. Irkutsk is on high alert, while the authorities check all places where homeless people might live to warn them about the risks of consuming toxic substances.
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