Experts at Children's Hospital Los Angeles raised an alarm Tuesday over what may be a dangerous new trend among teens: distilling and drinking alcohol from hand sanitizers.
Six teens suffering from alcohol poisoning recently landed in Los Angeles County emergency rooms after ingesting alcohol derived from hand sanitizers, hospital officials said.
"We are seeing more kids in the emergency departments for this type of alcohol poisoning," said Helen Arbogast, injury prevention coordinator in the trauma program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "We went from zero to six cases. We never had it before."
While there have been cases in recent years of people suffering alcohol poisoning after drinking straight hand sanitizer, Arbogast says using salt to to separate alcohol from the over-the-counter product is "relatively new."
The sanitizers contain 62 percent ethanol, she says, and that's the equivalent of 120 proof booze. The recipe for such chemistry is easily accessed online, Dr. Cyrus Rangan, the hospital's medical toxicology consultant said, adding, "It's like drinking shots of hard liquor.''
"A few swallows is all it takes to get a person the intoxicating effects of alcohol" Rangan said during a news conference at the hospital Tuesday.
Rangan advises parents to keep hand sanitizer safely stored when not in use.
Arbogast says parents can buy sanitizers that don't list ethanol as a primary ingredient and also suggests using foam sanitizers since young children are less likely to ingest them straight from the bottle.