More than 50 are dead and a total of a hundred have been hospitalized in the Siberian town of Irkutsk after a mass poisoning caused by drinking bath lotions containing a highly toxic alcohol has occurred. The situation has brought to light a serious concern over the safety of alcohol products in Russia, and has left at least seven children orphaned due to the loss of both parents. More deaths are expected to come, and an all out investigation has been launched into how this could have occurred.
Toxic Alcohol in Bath Lotions Being Used as A Beverage Surrogate
With 100 individuals hospitalized in the last few weeks, and now more than 50 dead and the number growing daily, the issue of drinking bath lotions containing toxic alcohol as a substitute for real alcoholic beverages has become a serious problem.
The small town of Irkutsk is the scene of the largest incident of mass poisoning in Russian history, and has cast light on the Russian government’s policies regarding the manufacture, sale, and use of products that are able to be easily used for purposes other than what they are intended for and which have potentially dangerous consequences.
The bath lotions and oils in question are a common product sold in stores all over the country, and due to their low price they are a popular choice for those who are looking for a substitute for alcoholic beverages. The issue is not a new one, in fact, many residents of the very town where the mass poisoning occurred complained to officials about the prolific sale and use of the products as a beverage as far back as July. They cited instances of those getting sick even then from drinking bath lotions, but nothing was done.
More Than Just an Issue with Bath Lotion
In addition to the problem with people drinking bath lotions, there is also a growing concern over the sale and consumption of counterfeit vodka, which contains toxic ingredients that are much cheaper and easier to acquire than what is needed to make the real thing.
Nationwide, the epidemic of deaths related to alcohol poisoning has grown significantly in the last few years. In the case of the deaths related to drinking bath lotions, more than a dozen people have been arrested in Irkutsk, according to the official TASS news agency.
The problem of using toxic alcohol-related non-food products as a surrogate for beverage alcohol comes primarily from the fact that excise taxes have been kept very low on these products in order to bolster trade, especially in the poorest of regions. But with the surge in unintended use, that policy is being reevaluated, especially in light of the recent events in Irkutsk.
Putin said in a statement on the tragedy,
“We can see what such lax rules are leading to. There are people dying like flies, dying by the dozens, I don’t even know how to qualify this.”
The problem of drinking bath lotions and counterfeit vodka is a complex one with no easy answers to be sure, but it has become clear that there is a desperate need for something to be done.
Russian Government Stepping In to Investigate and Get Situation Under Control
Mayor Dmitry Berdnikov recently declared a city-wide state of emergency in Irkutsk, and senior most Russian investigator Alexander Bastrykhin flew to the town to head up a task force to look into the mass poisoning. This comes on the heels of Russian president Vladimir Putin recently signing into law new regulations regarding the manufacture sale and use of non-food products that contain alcohol as well as tightening regulations on the manufacturing and sale of alcoholic beverages in the country.
The day after the laws were signed into effect, the 70th person to die related to the drinking of bath lotions succumbed to their condition.