TEHRAN: More than 700 people have died in Iran after erroneously ingesting toxic methanol to cure the novel coronavirus.
The national coroner’s authority said that alcohol poisoning killed 728 Iranians between February 20 and April 7. Last year there were only 66 deaths from alcohol poisoning, according to the report.
According to a government report released earlier in April, alcohol poisoning has seen a 10-fold increase in Iran in the past year, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Iranian health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 5,011 people had been poisoned from methanol alcohol. He added that around 90 people have lost their eyesight or are suffering eye damage from alcohol poisoning.
Hossein Hassanian, a health ministry adviser, said the final tally of people who lost their eyesight could be much higher. He said that the difference in death tallies is because some alcohol poisoning victims died outside of hospitals.
Iran is one of the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak with around 5,800 deaths and more than 91,000 confirmed cases. Methanol cannot be smelled or tasted in drinks. It causes delayed organ and brain damage. Symptoms include chest pain, nausea, hyperventilation, blindness and even coma.
In Iran, the government mandates that manufacturers of toxic methanol add artificial colour to their products so the public can tell it apart from ethanol, the kind of alcohol that can be used in cleaning wounds.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s government announced it would issue permits for new alcohol factories quickly. Iran has currently some forty alcohol factories that have been allocated for pharmaceutical and sanitizing items.
Some bootleggers in Iran use methanol, adding a splash of bleach to mask the added color before selling it as drinkable. Methanol also can contaminate traditionally fermented alcohol.