Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Was Prescient

Back in the spring I wrote, while riffing on ethanol, about hand sanitizer. I had just attended a TIPS training, the training where they teach people who work in the hospitality industry how to identify and handle people who have had too much alcohol. Since I was also thinking about fuel alcohol, ethanol, at the time, it's not surprising that I ran across the article about the prison inmate who got loaded on Purell. I predicted then that children would end up getting drunk on hand sanitizer, either on purpose or because they licked it off their hands.

Turns out both things have happened, and I can thank the person who got to this site by Googling "how much purell to get drunk" for leading me to these stories.

Two little girls, at least, have ended up at the ER after eating hand sanitizer. One swigged it during an unsupervised visit to the bathroom. Another licked it off her hands at daycare. The second case was particularly frightening as the parents had no idea what was going on -- they picked up a sick kid from daycare and went to the ER. Their daughter could barely sit up in the chair and was having trouble focusing her eyes. The ER doctors could not figure it out until the preschool teacher questioned the other kids and heard about the hand sanitizer.

There are at least two other potential hazards associated with hand sanitizer. At Rant Your Head Off, we find a story about a new urine test to determine if recovering alcoholics are still firmly on the wagon. The test detects alcohol metabolites at very small levels, so small that it appears that a few people may have lost their jobs because of their hand sanitizer use.

And there's this one, from a comment on the NY Times "Freakonomics"blog:

Anyone know whether the stories of hand sanitizers combusting when sparked by static are true? The hospital I work for circulated a memo to that effect. Great-we already have to worry about contracting MRSA, HIV, HepB, and various other nasties at work-now we need to worry about hand fires??
Should’a gone into teaching….
D. Cheryl, R.N.

You know it's a bad day at work when your hands catch fire.

Meanwhile I'm reading Michael Pollan's An Omnivore's Dilemma. The first part of this book is all about corn. He attributes the rise of food engineering to our nations ongoing glut of corn, which we can produce cheaply as long as we can keep synthesizing nitrogen fertilizer from fossil fuels. During our nation's first glut of corn, in the mid 19th century, the excess was converted to alcohol, whiskey, a form that was easily transported and sold to city dwellers. Modern day liquor laws have made that sort of trade impossible today, so corn is converted to a host of other products that are recombined into engineered food. It does make me wonder if hand sanitizer was invented to solve a human need for sanitizing, or to create another market for corn products?

I've got to start writing more about the restoration of the constitution and the rebirth of democracy and common sense. If my predictions are going to come true, after all, I might as well make some really good ones.....

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