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Teens drinking hand sanitizer – though underage drinking is down

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Donna McWillia/AP/File

(Read caption) In an effort to get drunk, some teens are drinking hand sanitizer, shown here at Texas Star Pharmacy in Plano, Texas, although underage drinking in general is down.

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So, just in case you need something else to worry about as the parent of a teenager:

Hand sanitizer.  Yes, that gooey substance that is everywhere these days, from the school bathroom to the entrance at the grocery store, is the latest danger to teens who are – get this – drinking it to become intoxicated.

According to the Los Angeles Times, six teenagers have shown up in two San Fernando Valley emergency rooms in the past few months with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer, and while the number of cases is still low, at least one public health official worried about hand sanitizer abuse becoming a dangerous trend. The Times also reported that statewide 60 reports of teens drinking hand sanitizer had been logged by the California Poison Control System since 2010.

Hand sanitizer, which has 62 percent ethyl alcohol, produces a potent drink that can cause alcohol poisoning. Some of the cases involve teenagers who used salt to separate out the alcohol.

There were also 147 cases involving children ages 6 to 12 and 2,180 cases ages 0 to 5, believed to have accidentally ingested the gel, according to poison control service, part of the UC San Francisco's Department of Clinical Pharmacy.

First thought here:  Gross.

Second: Wow. Really sad.

According to the news reports, some of the hospitalized children said they did not drink the hand sanitizer straight out of the bottle, but distilled it to isolate the disinfectant’s ethyl alcohol, leading to a shot that can be three times as alcoholic as vodka.

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