Methanol, the simplest form of alcohol, is made from wood distillation, or more commonly from a factory produced chemical process. Unlike ethanol, or common alcohol, which can be consumed, methanol exposure can cause a variety of health problems up to and including death. It is a highly toxic substance and should be handled with great care.
Exposure to methanol can occur from inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, or any combination of these. Extreme caution should be exercised when working with or around methanol to avoid overexposure and the serious health symptoms that it can cause.
Inhalation can occur in various ways, the most common being:
- Evaporation during solvent usage
- As a component of vehicle exhaust
Exposure to toxic levels of methanol can also occur through the repeated skin contact with products containing methanol and methanol derivatives. Because so many products contain methanol, possible exposure could come from a number of sources such as:
- Paint thinners and strippers
- Certain cleaning agents
- Certain inks
The most common form of accidental methanol ingestion is drinking tainted water or eating food prepared with tainted water.
Effects of Methanol Exposure
Excessive exposure to methanol can pose serious health risks. Persons should limit their exposure to the shortest possible time allowed to avoid health complications.
- Vision problems such as blurriness or dimness
- Possible blindness
- Mild skin irritation
- Permanent motor skill impairment
- Death if ingested
- Gastric Distress
Methanol is a highly toxic substance that should be used with caution. To avoid both short and long term health risks, always limit exposure to the shortest period possible and wear protection such as a respirator and gloves.