There's a product common in many households has some teens turning to it as source of alcohol with a proof as high as 120 -- and it doesn't involve unlocking their parent's liquor cabinet. It's the hand sanitizer that could be sitting next to the bathroom sink, in the kitchen or even in their backpack.
The Los Angeles Times reports six teens in California's San Fernando Valley were hospitalized in the last two months after being poisoned by imbibing alcohol from this source. The Times reports some teens are "distilling" the gel substance intended to rid hands of germs, drawing out the 62 percent ethyl alcohol using salt. Here's what experts are saying about the problem:
"All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager," said Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county public health department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "There is no question that it is dangerous."
"It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor," Rangan said.
The Times goes on to report that while doctors were not surprised that teens were turning to strange substances to get a high, the sanitizer was a new one. Last year, there were no such cases reported in emergency rooms. Still, many have noted the disturbing amount of YouTube videos showing teens drinking the gel. Here's one such video where the teenager asks his friend -- after drinking the mini bottle -- "Can I die from that?":
This local news channel in Michigan shows the extent of the YouTube footage in its report on the trend:
If you're a parent concerned about keeping hand sanitizer in the house, experts have said the foam version makes it much harder to extract the alcohol compared to the gel variety.