At least 49 people died in Irkutsk after drinking Boyaryshnik, becoming one of the deadliest events of its kind in Russia.
Being called a “terrible tragedy” by Putin’s representatives, they assured that President remains vigilant of the situation. 57 people are known to have consumed the substance, and only 8 of them have survived. The death toll is expected to increase as more cases are uncovered, assured Alexander Semenov from the Regional Prosecutor’s Office.
2,000 liters of the product have been confiscated, and at least two people have been detained for being involved in the distribution line, as the state news agency reported it.
The recession has them drinking bath ointments
The victims were all from the Novo-Lenino neighborhood, although they were not drinking together. They were mostly very poor people aged between 35 and 50 years old. The bath lotion is sold as an ointment for external use exclusively, but the victims took it to get drunk.
Boyaryshnik stands for “hawthorn,” a genus of shrubs native to northern Europe. These trees yield a small fruit commonly known as haw, a drupaceous fruit similar to peaches and plums. Haws are often used to make jelly or wine, and the leaves of the shrub can serve to prepare salads.
Although alcohol poisoning is common in Russia, the recent economic sanctions have worsened the situation, forcing 12 million Russians to drink perfume, anti-freeze, and more recently bath lotions to get drunk. Officials suggest that the incident was so lethal because the product’s supposed ethyl alcohol content was replaced with the much more toxic compound methanol. Also, sources point out that the product came in bottles with a label revealing a content consisting of 93 percent spirit.
Supposedly, Boyaryshnik was frequently bought by pensioners and students. It cost $1, while a cheap vodka bottle would cost $3. The contents on the label were: ethyl alcohol, water, glycerin, and hawthorn extract. To test the composition, chemists took a teaspoon of Boyaryshnik and set it on fire. This is because ethanol burns blue while methanol burns green.
Methanol is a poisonous substance that can cause liver and kidney failure, blindness, and death. There is no certainty as to how much methanol can be considered lethal because it depends on the weight, age, and state of health of the person. For most, 250 milliliters is enough, and although ethyl alcohol neutralizes methanol, drinking both will not save the patient, as only the intravenous administration of an antidote will help to save the person’s life. Coherently, using methanol in small quantities as a bath oil is far from dangerous.
For most, 250 milliliters is enough, and although ethyl alcohol neutralizes methanol, drinking both will not save the patient, as only the intravenous administration of an antidote will help to save the person’s life. Coherently, using methanol in small quantities as a bath oil is far from dangerous.
On the other hand, hawthorn was confirmed to have nothing to do with the fatal outcome of drinking Boyaryshnik. On the contrary, hawthorn reduces blood pressure, improves heart rate, and provides plenty of vitamins that are highly beneficial for anyone.
Recently, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin revealed that 2 out of every ten bottles of drinking alcohol consisted on medicines and perfumes, not brewed nor distilled liquor. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption in Russia is one of the highest in the world, represented in a yearly 15 liters of alcohol taken per capita. At one point in the 19th century, vodka became the source of 40 percent of the government’s full revenue, a display of how Russia has always maintained a culture where drinking is tolerated and even encouraged.
Stalin took advantage of vodka and established a state monopoly for increasing revenue, while subsequent leaders tried to cut down alcoholism by imposing controls and partial prohibition. These efforts were successful to some extent, but due to the lack of support from the population, the plans were laid to rest.
A problem enrooted in the current economic crisis
The latest intoxication events are occurring as President Putin sets himself as the strong man in world politics, having one foot in Syria and becoming a constant threat to adjacent nations, including the crisis at the Crimean peninsula. Although Russia remains as a powerhouse in international politics, its lackluster domestic policy suggests that eventually, the vast Siberian nation will come to the point of inflection.
Russian economy depends on oil prices, and after the drop of 2015, the investment in military campaigns on foreign territories have brought the country’s living standards the lowest they have been in years. Because people can’t afford or find alcohol, they had resorted to dangerous alternatives, which reminds of the period when Gorbachev ordered a confiscation of all vodka-related products from retail stores, forcing Russians to consume whatever they could get their hands on.
The recession has hit small cities hard, while larger settlements such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg remain largely unaffected. Irkutsk is a medium-sized city of just over half a million people. Currently, the city is under a state of emergency. Authorities have been deployed to check places where homeless people are known to reside to avoid having them ingest the toxic substance.