Los Angeles emergency rooms are reporting a growing number of teenagers coming in drunk after drinking cheap liquid hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizers, which contain over 60% ethyl alcohol and can make a 120-proof liquid, are becoming an increasingly popular route for getting drunk.

According to the Los Angeles Times, six teens have been reportedly taken to emergency rooms in the San Fernando Valley and treated for alcohol poisoning after drinking the hand sanitizers.

In some cases, salt was used to separate the alcohol, so that it could be drunk straight, like a shot.

Learning how to distill the sanitizer is not so difficult if you know how to look things up online.

Public health officials in the San Fernando Valley have described these cases as possibly a signal of a dangerous trend.

A bottle of alcohol gel - no label
Alcohol-based liquid hand sanitizer

Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county public health department, said to the Los Angeles Times:

“All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager. There is no question that it is dangerous. It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor (use salt to separate the alcohol)”

Rangan wonders whether these possibly isolated cases might eventually turn into a problem for the county. These hand sanitizers are relatively cheap, and well within the budgets of the majority of teenagers.

Health officials say that there had been cases of younger children accidentally consuming hand sanitizer.

Doctors say this practice of using hand sanitizer liquid to get drunk is new – last year there were no reported cases in the area.

Health officials say it is important for parents to understand how much alcohol these products contain – even a small bottle has enough to get drunk on, because the alcohol content is highly concentrated.

Foam versions are probably safer if there are children in the house, officials say. Foam is much harder to separate the alcohol from.

Written by Christian Nordqvist