Methanol(CH3OH), or wood alcohol because it used to be distilled from burned wood, was used for embalming by the Egyptians thousands of years ago, and was a well-known poison in the 18th and 19th century, until its effects and presence in human tissues became forensically demonstrable. Today Methanol is mainly used as a solvent, fuel(eg for Monster Trucks) or in antifreeze, and can be produced en masse in a catalytic process from carbon monoxide, dioxide and hydrogen. It is also added to industrially produced Ethanol(the alcohol in alcoholic beverages)to make it undrinkable, thereby avoiding ther tax excise.
Methanol is colorless, flammable, and tastes a little bit sweetish. In the human body, it gets metabolised to formic acid and formaldehyde/formate salts. The most common clinical signs of Methanol poisoning are abdominal pain, vomiting, anxiety, acidosis, blindness, weakness, shortness of breath, coma and death. It is important to know that as little as one teaspoon of Methanol can lead to optic nerve damage and blindness, and 2 tablespoons can kill a child or small adult, although the average deadly dose is around 100ml(1-2ml/kg). Continue reading