2016 Irkutsk mass methanol poisoning

mass methanol poisoning in Irkutsk, in Siberia

In late December 2016, 58 people died from mass methanol poisoning in Irkutsk, Russia. It was caused by people drinking cheap counterfeit alcohol that was actually supposed to be used as a bath lotion.[1] The counterfeit was called Boyaryshnik (Боярышник; Russian for "Hawthorn").[2]


Boyaryshnik was much cheaper than vodka, so people bought it instead amid the tough economic conditions.[1] Similar incidents have been on the rise as Russia's economy has suffered from low oil prices and international sanctions from the Russian intervention in Ukraine.[3] Russia's deputy prime minister said before the incident that this type of alcohol made up 20% of all the alcohol drank in the country.[4]

The lotion was mixed with methanol; which is an alcohol that is poisonous. The label on the bottle said that the lotion instead had ethanol. A total of 58 people died from drinking the lotion.[1][3] The victims were poor and were all between the ages of 35 and 50.[2]


Many people who were involved with making the potion were arrested. About 500 litres (130 US gal) of lotion was confiscated from the facility where it was made.[3]

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for a ban on counterfeit alcohol, stating that "it's an outrage, and we need to put an end to this."[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nechepurenko, Ivan (19 December 2016). "In Russia, Dozens Dies After Drinking Alcohol Substitute". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "State of emergency declared in Russia as 49 die in bath lotion drinking case". CBS News. 19 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Isachenkov, Vladimir (19 December 2016). "Alcohol poisoning death toll in Russian city rises to 49". Associated Press. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  4. "Russia bath lotion kills 48 drinkers in Irkutsk". BBC News. 19 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.