METHANOL (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     24th June 2024        
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Context: The Kallakurichi illicit liquor tragedy, which has resulted in over 50 deaths, follows a distressingly familiar pattern of methanol poisoning, echoing similar incidents that occur periodically across various states in India.


  • About: It is a wood alcohol (CH3OH) that can be used as renewable energy, marine and auto fuel, and as fuel cells.
  • Physical Characteristics: Methanol appears as a colorless, fairly volatile liquid with a faintly sweet pungent odor similar to ethyl alcohol.
  • Production: Methanol is primarily produced by combining carbon monoxide gas and hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. Increasingly, syngas derived from biomass is also used in its production.
  • Applications: Methanol is used in chemical synthesis, as a fuel additive, solvent for paints and plastics, and in various consumer products.
  • Treatment of Methanol Poisoning

oEthanol Administration: Ethanol competes with methanol for enzymes, preventing its toxic metabolites.

oFomepizole Administration: Slows down the enzyme action that converts methanol to toxic substances like formaldehyde.

Regulation of Methanol in India

  • Legal Classification: Methanol is listed in Schedule I of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules 1989 in India.
  • Food Safety Standards: The Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations 2018 specify permissible methanol limits in different alcoholic beverages.
  • Quality Standards: Indian Standard IS 517 outlines quality requirements for methanol, and the Tamil Nadu Denatured Spirit, Methyl Alcohol, and Varnish (French Polish) Rules 1959 govern packaging and labeling requirements.
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