At least 48 people have died in Russia after drinking bath lotion containing methanol, officials said on Monday.
The deaths occurred in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. The AP reports that local authorities went door-to-door on Monday to look for other victims. Officials also declared a state of emergency, and the Russian government reportedly issued calls for better alcohol regulation.
Bath lotion and other substances that contain ethyl alcohol are sometimes used as cheap stand-ins for regular alcohol in Russia, but this batch contained methanol, which is highly toxic and can be fatal when ingested. According to the AP, the lotion contained labels that said it wasn’t meant to be swallowed.
It’s unclear exactly how or why the lotion became contaminated, but the New York Times reports that local authorities rounded up seven people in connection with its production. Authorities also reportedly found the “workshop” where the lotion was made.
While alcohol poisoning from substitute alcohol products can be common, the AP noted the “Irkutsk case was unprecedented in its scale.”
Of course, “surrogate alcohol” isn’t just a problem in Russia. In 2012, at least 20 people died in the Czech Republic after they consumed methanol-laced liquor. More recently, a former employee for Wells Fargo confessed that she drank bottles of hand sanitiser in order to deal with the stress of her job.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said that such substances should be banned, given their potentially fatal consequences. “It’s an outrage, and we need to put an end to this,” he said. [Associated Press, New York Times]