|Methanol is a clear, colorless liquid with a pungent odor at normal temperatures. First discovered in the late 1600s, methanol has been called wood alcohol because it was obtained commercially from the destructive distillation of wood for more than a century. True wood alcohol contained more contaminants, including acetone and acetic acid, than the chemical-grade methanol available today.|
For many years, the largest use for methanol (about 50% of the total produced) was in the production of formaldehyde. It is now also used in the production of acetic acid, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), oxindol (used to improve gasoline octane), and other chemical intermediates. Methanol is also a solvent found in paint remover, varnish, and shellac. Methanol is extremely toxic: as little as 2 to 8 ounces can be fatal to an adult. Workers in industries where methyl alcohol is used and produced may be exposed to harmful levels via inhalation or skin contact. Historically, methanol poisoning has occurred primarily from intentional ingestion as a substitute for alcoholic beverages or as a contaminant of "moonshine." Two products containing methanol that are most often ingested are antifreeze solutions and windshield washer products.
Incidence and Prevalence: One thousand forty-nine people were exposed to methanol in 2002 according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Thirty-two people had a life-threatening reaction to the exposure and experienced medical complications. Thirteen people died (Watson).
Source: Medical Disability Advisor