Library Collections: Document: Full Text

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Reports

Creator: n/a
Date: October 1920
Publication: The News Letter
Publisher: National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness, New York
Source: Mount Holyoke College Library

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The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company reports that during the first four months of 1920 there were 40 deaths from wood alcohol poisoning among the industrial policy holders. It is not known how many are blind or suffering from deterioration of sight from this cause.


In the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology Dr. Ward A. Holden sums up the wood alcohol situation as follows:


"The warning that the public has received, together with the present status of the wood alcohol industry, seems to guarantee us against any great amount of wood alcohol poisoning in the immediate future.


"The favorable features as regards the industry are three in number:


"1. The refiners of wood alcohol, have changed its name and now designate all grades as METHANOL.


"2. The restriction in forestry operations has cut down the supply of wood alcohol, while the demands for wood alcohol products in agriculture, moving-picture films, dye industries, and the like, have been greatly increased, both here and abroad, thus raising the price to $1.80 a gallon.


"The legitimate industries in the future will take the entire output, leaving none to be scattered in small lots, as in the past, in pharmacies and paint-shops.


"Denatured grain alcohol, which costs but 60 cents a gallon, one-third the present price of wood alcohol, will soon entirely take the place of wood alcohol for use by the general public.


"3. Because of the scarcity of wood alcohol the Federal Government now requires, in the production of denatured grain alcohol, the addition of but 2 per cent. of wood alcohol as compared with the 10 per cent. required before January 1, 1920. And it is likely that, following the lead of European countries, the Government will soon permit the use of a lower grade of refined wood alcohol, which is less toxic and also more nauseating than the grade now required. Hence the danger from denatured alcohol is greatly lessened.


"In regard to legislation, we have gone slowly, knowing that any bill that hurts the refiner will be blocked by him, and any bill that hurts the other industries will be blocked by them. Further Federal legislation may prove to be necessary, but it should be very carefully considered from every point of view, and no Federal supervision should be urged that will appreciably discourage industries and increase the cost of living, which Federal supervision invariably does, unless we can be quite sure that it is not needless, and that it will diminish materially the prevalence of wood alcohol poisoning in the future."