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Denatured Alcohol

Denatured Alcohol

Definition

Denatured alcohol or “methylated spirits” is ethanol for non-drinking purposes with added substances (denaturants) that makes it disgustingly bitter and thus inedible.

Ingredients

Common denaturants used in denatured alcohol include methanol (up to 55%), isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), methyl isobutyl ketone, pyridine, pyronate, kerosene, acetone, turpentine, amyl alcohol, naphtha (petroleum oil) or denatonium [1].

Uses

  • Cleaning agent
  • Solvent
  • Paint removal
  • Fuel additive
  • Sanding aid
  • Exterminator
  • Disinfectant (rubbing alcohol)

Is denatured alcohol the same as rubbing or isopropyl alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is an umbrella term for all alcohol products that have been made inedible by adding denaturants.

Rubbing alcohol is an example of denatured alcohol that is intended as disinfectant to be applied on the skin or as a cleaning agent. The main ingredient in rubbing alcohol is either ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or propyl alcohol.

In the United Kingdom, rubbing alcohol is also called surgical spirit, which can be used as a skin disinfectant in medicine [4].

In the United States, rubbing alcohol has a composition that makes it toxic for any use, including applying on the skin [4].

The proper use of rubbing alcohol should be clearly described on the product’s label.

Dangers

Denatured alcohol that contains methanol is highly toxic and drinking it can cause blindness, coma or death; other adverse effects may include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination, stupor, facial flushing, liver, kidney and heart damage [2].

Drinking rubbing alcohol that contains propyl alcohol can cause flushing, nausea, vomiting, depression of the central nervous system and, eventually, coma or death [3].

A person who has ingested denatured alcohol should call local emergency service and ask for instructions how to induce vomiting.

2 Responses to "Denatured Alcohol"

  1. Jason says:

    U.S. rubbing alcohol is not “toxic for any use, including rubbing on the skin.” Your reference #4 states that it is an excellent disinfectant and can cause dryness if used often.

    • Jan Modric says:

      There are obviously different estimations of its toxicity:

      According to Toxnet: “Isopropyl alcohol is a potent eye and skin irritant.” “Prolonged contact with the skin can cause corrosion.”

      According to USDA: isopropanol is slightly/moderately irritating to the eyes, and nonirritating to the skin.

      According to New Jersey Department of Health: “Contact [with isopropanol]can burn eyes and skin.”

      Also, some products can be adulterated and thus potentially more harmful.

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