The Corrections Department has ordered all prisons across the country to replace alcohol based sanitiser gels with liquid soap, after some inmates at a prison in the north-eastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu consumed soft drinks mixed with the gel, resulting in the death of one inmate, blindness in another and 31 injuries.
Dr. Thatree Sunpongsri, an inspector-general of the Corrections Department, said that an investigation was ordered after the tragic incident and it was found that the death and injuries were linked to the inappropriate use of the alcohol-based gels, available in prisons for hand sanitation.
He said that some prisoners at the Nong Bua Lamphu prison stole the gel and stored it in a plastic bag. When they wanted to celebrate among themselves and get drunk, they mixed the gel with soft drinks and drank the concoction, he added.
Those who did not drink much only developed a stomach upset, dizziness and vomiting. Those who drank too much were admitted to the prison hospital, but one of them died and another lost his sight.
He explained that, normally, all form of alcohol are prohibited in all prisons but, during the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions were eased and alcohol-based sanitiser gels were allowed for hand cleansing, which was abused by some inmates.
Hand sanitizers are intended for use only on the hands and are not to be used over larger body surfaces, ingested, inhaled, or injected.
Ingesting any hand sanitizer made with either ethanol or methanol can cause symptoms similar to general alcohol poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain, decreased coordination and blurry vision.