Over the past two weeks, several counties in Kenya have had more than 90 deaths with more than 150 people hospitalised after having used a locally made alcohol.

Headlines all over the country have been blazened by the story of this killer brew in several counties. The numbers were going higher and higher every day. The bottles were recycled – i.e. cleaned up. The lethal alcohol was placed in them and subsequently the product was shipped to several counties in the country for sale. The factory where this was manufactured  is a makeshift one and yet the product was being sold to people legitimately. Victims said the brew was flammable – apparently it was 100% alcohol – methanol to be precise.

Wikipedia describes methanol as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits. It is the  chemical MeOH. Methanol acquired the name “wood alcohol” because it was once produced chiefly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. Modern methanol is produced in a catalytic industrial process directly from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

Methanol is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, that of ethanol (alcohol usually consumed by humans). At room temperature, it is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol. It is also used for producing biodiesel

Methanol ingested in large quantities is metabolized to formic acid or salts, which is poisonous to the central nervous system, and may cause blindness, coma, and death.

Other symptoms of methanol poisoning are:

Breathing difficulty, convulsions, low blood pressure, coma, dizziness, seizures, bluish-colored lips and fingernails, abdominal pain (severe), diarrhoea, liver function problems, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, leg cramps, weakness.

These incidents are sad examples for what the consequences can be for the love of alcohol, or a high – people are left blind or dead. Several brewers were arrested but I think that will serve no purpose now that people have died.

NACADA – National Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Authority, was supposed to make sure that this catastrophe caused by alcohol would not happen. Several NACADA officials have been suspended from their posts and the brewer was arrested, too. But in my opinion, this is a day late and a dollar short.

It could have been prevented if people were doing their jobs effectively. It’s not enough that a bill is in place. It has to be implemented. There has been a lot of talk because of these deaths and over 150 hospitalisations but my question is: What will be done to stop the carnage? Talk is cheap and it is time to act.