Russian officials say a big Siberian city is reeling in the wake of a mass-poisoning incident where at least 49 people died drinking a toxic bath oil they thought would get them drunk. Makeshift booze is a major problem among Russia’s less well-off, and authorities say this particular instance — which happened in Russia’s sixth-largest city, Irkutsk, and put an additional 15 people in hospitals — is one of the deadliest in years.
According to RT, bottles of the product, called Boyaryshnik, describe it as a hawthorn-infused lotion that contains ethyl alcohol, lemon oil, diethyl phthalate, and glycerol — a revolting-sounding mix that already comes with a warning not to swallow it. Officials say, in reality, the concoction actually contains methyl alcohol and antifreeze, which make it fatal.
Irkutsk’s mayor has responded by declaring a state of emergency and banning the sale of all spirits not meant for human consumption. Authorities say they confiscated more than 2,000 liters of the stuff and arrested the two ringleaders allegedly behind its distribution, underscoring how widespread of a problem “surrogate” alcohol has become among the country’s socially disadvantaged. Cheap perfume and window cleaner are common substitutes in the region because they’re less regulated than legit booze, and one Russian politician tells Reuters the problem is, for Russians, “a thousand times more important than Syria, Aleppo, Ukraine and Trump put together.”