Ethyl alcohol’s strength is measured in proof — twice the substance’s percentage of alcohol; 190-proof alcohol is the highest proof that can exist before it begins to evaporate. Everclear, a grain alcohol that is illegal in some of the United States because of its high concentration of alcohol, and absinthe both have alcohol concentrations of up to 95 percent. Alcohol of this concentration can have multiple negative effects on users, including irritation and toxicity.
Skin or eye exposure to 190-proof alcohol can cause irritation. If the alcohol comes in to contact with a burn or open wound on the skin, it can cause burns, rashes, pain and other irritating symptoms. Strong alcohol that comes into contact with the eyes can cause pain, redness, burns and even temporary blindness. In the event that 190-proof alcohol comes into contact with broken skin or eyes, flush it away immediately with clean water or saline solution. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor or call emergency services immediately.
Toxicity if Ingested
Alcohol of this strong of a concentration is intended for consumption in small amounts. Ingesting large amounts of 190-proof alcohol can lead to intoxication, temporary impairment of motor skills, nausea and vomiting. Continued ingestion of 190-proof alcohol can also cause what is commonly known as alcohol poisoning — a severe type of intoxication that can lead to death if the condition goes untreated by medical professionals. Treatment for alcohol poisoning can include intravenous fluids and having your stomach pumped.
Toxicity if Inhaled
Inhalation of the fumes from 190-proof alcohol can cause burns to the nose, throat and lungs. The repercussions from inhaling the fumes or the alcohol itself can be severe and long lasting. Refrain from inhaling both fumes and alcohol, particularly in large amounts. Anyone who does inhale a large amount of fumes or alcohol should seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for inhalation can include oxygen treatment and, in some severe cases, surgery to attempt to repair the damage cause by the alcohol.
Alcohol of this strength is extremely flammable. A common bar game with these alcohols involves lighting them on fire and attempting to drink the flaming drink. This practice can cause severe burns and lead to permanent scarring or other injuries. When using 190-proof alcohol, keep it far away from any heat sources or open flames to avoid fire or explosion of the alcohol. In the event of fire, use a fire extinguisher. Anyone who plans to light 190-proof alcohol should maintain a safe distance and should keep a fire extinguisher close at hand as a precaution. If an alcohol fire does start, notify the local fire department immediately.
References and ResourcesScience Lab: Ethyl Alcohol
Drinks Mixer: Everclear
CVS: Ethyl Alcohol