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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Counterfeit Alcohol, Sometimes Containing Jet Fuel or Embalming Fluid, Growing Concern for Tourists Abroad

The news about the tragic deaths of several American tourists in the Dominican Republic in May 2019 has created an outcry and a media frenzy. As of June 30, there were at least nine deaths with similar circumstances in the past few months. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Dominican authorities are investigating, and one theory is that alcohol was the cause of these deaths.

The FBI has reportedly taken samples of alcohol for testing, and the hotels where some tourists died have removed alcohol from the minibars in the hotel rooms. But the concerns are growing, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on June 30, 2019 recommended that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should aid the ongoing investigation.

Many may find it puzzling that alcohol, particularly adulterated or counterfeit alcohol, could possibly have caused these deaths. But, some experts seem to agree that the symptoms and circumstances fit the indicators of deaths caused by adulterated alcohol.

As a professor of public health at Georgia State University, I need to note that research now shows that no amount of alcohol is considered safe in terms of your health, and that alcohol is linked to many cancers and heart disease and is also a key contributor to traffic crashes, violence and suicide. Even so, counterfeit or illegally made alcohol brings a new level of risk, as it is not monitored for safety and may include added ingredients, such as methanol, known to be extremely harmful to health.

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By Dr. Monica H. Swahn
Distinguished University Professor
Epidemiology and Public Health
Georgia State University

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