21 teenagers mysteriously died in a South African nightclub. Was methanol to blame?

Originally published at: 21 teenagers mysteriously died in a South African nightclub. Was methanol to blame? | Boing Boing


really seems too fast for methanol (fatal) poisoning. it takes a bit of time, even with a young metabolism, to convert methanol to formic acid and from then for formic acid to perform enough tissue damage to kill someone (famously retinal damage and ‘going blind’) …12 hours at least, is the typical scenario, and that if one is chugging a whole lot of it. so: hmmm


The “poorly made alcohol” methanol poisoning is a myth. Source - worked in the distilling industry, never once had a problem with even the gnarliest fermented products throwing off methanol, which we are required to test for.

What gave rise to the very real poisonings and blindness were attempts to distill “denatured” alcohol (untaxed alcohol that has been mixed with methanol) into usable booze. Both regular fermented booze and denatured alcohol are azeotropes: this means that you can’t distill all the water out of regular alcohol and you can’t distill all the methanol out of denatured alcohol.

This doesn’t stop people from trying, and generally methanol is surprisingly tasteless, so people drink it


Don’t know about South Africa, but over here, denatured alcohol no longer contains methanol*. Even though it’s still sold as ‘methylated spirits’.

*ETA: apparently industrial denatured alcohol still can, but not the consumer version.


I’d really like to see some sort of hard facts on this before I’d trust that there’s no chance of producing dangerous levels of methanol when home distilling. I can see it not being a problem in a professional setting, or when only making something like beer. But I’ve seen enough professional distillers warn against consuming the first pulls from a still due to methanol content to be wary of just anyone discounting it as pure myth.


Try scuppernong grapes, maybe?

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.