Volume 35, Issue 5 (September 1990)
Fatal Ethanol Intoxication from Household Products Not Intended for Ingestion
Fatal acute ethanol intoxication is frequently encountered in medicolegal practice. Although the vast majority of acute ethanol toxicity deaths follow the ingestion of conventional alcoholic beverages, ethanol can be obtained from a variety of commercial products, which often contain high levels of ethyl alcohol but are not manufactured or designed for consumption. Such products may be easily purchased in locales where statutory limitations restrict liquor availability on Sundays or during the early morning hours. Several acute ethanol fatalities have been encountered in New Mexico that were directly related to consumption of non-beverage ethanol-containing products, all of them occurring during times when alcoholic beverage sales were restricted. Despite the fact that manufacturers deliberately include compounds in these products that discourage ingestion, this policy apparently does little to deter individuals who are searching for a source of ethanol when no conventional beverages are available. The products that were consumed in these fatalities also contained other compounds which would be toxic at much greater concentrations, but which were inconsequential in their effects in comparison with the direct toxic effect of ethanol. Investigation of the scene and awareness that alcohol-containing products can be fatally abused are essential to detecting these unconventional ethanol sources.