The Huffington Post David Moye First Posted: 04/23/12 09:23 PM ET Updated: 04/24/12 11:30 AM ET
Hand sanitizer is supposed to kill germs, but some southern California teens are using it kill brain cells as well.
In the last few months, six teenagers have shown up in two San Fernando Valley emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This insane use of hand sanitizer has public health officials worrying that it's just the start of dangerous trend.
Hand sanitizers use a formula up to 62 percent ethyl alcohol to kill germs, but some students desperate for kicks are using salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, and making a potent 120-proof liquid equal in strength to a shot of hard liquor.
"All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager," Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county public health department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told the L.A. Times. "There is no question that it is dangerous."
Health effects from the drink reportedly include diarrhea, memory loss and even blindness and irreversible organ damage.
There have been only a few cases reported in Los Angeles, but Rangan fears the hand sanitizer highballs will become a larger problem since the product is cheap, easily available and the instructions for distilling it are easily available on the Internet, KTLA reported.
"It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor," Rangan said.
This is just the latest over-the-counter product that teens have used in an attempt to get a buzz, joining a dubious list that includes cough syrup, vanilla extract and mouthwash.
In fact, at least two homeless people in Albuquerque, N.M., died after drinking a mix of distilled hand sanitizer and mouthwash, according to KASA-TV.
Police officials are worried that local teens will pick up on the hand sanitizer habit, so they have been asking local stores to move the hand sanitizer and mouthwash in hopes of nipping the problem in the bud.