Health concerns with denatured alcohol

Hong Kong Hiking Web: 戶外大夫專欄 Outdoor Doctor Forum: Health concerns with denatured alcohol
   By thisdress on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 9:11 pm:  Edit Posted From:

Hi Dr.,

I favor a methylated spirit stove for its simplicity and light weight. But I understand denatured alcohol (aka methylated spirits or industrial alcohol) is toxic, can cause blindness or death through ingestion AND absorption through skin.

My question is, how much denatured will I have to come into contact with to become sick? When I'm camping I'm not likely to wash my hands frequently (as fresh water is precious,) also, you have to handle the fuel more frequently than with a white gas (like MSR) type stove. Will I get sick from daily handling (say, a few drops on my hands twice a day)?

Another related question, is it save to keep the stove inside my pot if the alcohol has burnt off or evaporated completely? There's a bit of purple coloration on the stove wall, but there is no liquid inside. On a similar note, if I put out the flame by cupping the stove with an upside down pot, is it still save to eat out of that pot? Can food come into direct contact with the alcohol flame? Or is there harmful substances in the flame itself?

I have been building my own denatured stoves and testing their performances in my kitchen, with all windows opened and also the exhaust fan on, I still get dizzy and somewhat nauseous every time. I'm guessing it's because of carbon monoxide, but is there any chance I'm actually getting methylated spirits poisoning?


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