Tainted rice wine with methanol concentrations of up to 12 percent has been linked to the nearly 200 people sickened or died in Kratie province in northeast Cambodia, according to a health ministry news release today (computer translated).
The outbreak of alcohol poisoning began about one month ago and testing on the toxic brew contained much more alcohol than normally found (0.15 percent). This resulted in 19 fatalities and another 172 hospitalizations.
Earlier reports blamed the illnesses and deaths on rotten dog meat; however, the high concentration of methanol in the rice wine has been determined the cause.
The situation is still under investigation and to date, no arrests have been made.
Methanol is a clear, colorless, volatile liquid with a weak odor slightly sweeter than ethanol. It is used in the industrial production of many synthetic organic com-j pounds and is a constituent of a large number of commercially available solvents.
Methanol ingestion is an uncommon form of poisoning that can cause severe metabolic disturbances, blindness, permanent neurologic dysfunction and death.