Did the Federal government poison alcohol during prohibition?

I knew that alcohol poisonings increased during prohibition, but I assumed that it all was due to ensure quality. From Slate:

Although mostly forgotten today, the "chemist's war of Prohibition" remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was "our national experiment in extermination." Poisonous alcohol still kills—16 people died just this month after drinking lethal booze in Indonesia, where bootleggers make their own brews to avoid steep taxes—but that's due to unscrupulous businessmen rather than government order.
I learned of the federal poisoning program while researching my new book, The Poisoner's Handbook, which is set in jazz-age New York. My first reaction was that I must have gotten it wrong. "I never heard that the government poisoned people during Prohibition, did you?" I kept saying to friends, family members, colleagues. . . .

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Blogger David Lawson said...

There was a policy during the 70s where they sprayed paraquat on marijuana fields, supposedly just in Mexico.

12/14/2011 10:47 AM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

Old news, Dr. Lott. Ethyl alcohol production did not cease during prohibition. Many commercial uses of ethanol existed during that time (as they still do), and the makers of those products were, and are still required to 'denature' the alcohol in order to prevent consumption.

Liquor taxes do not apply to commercial grade alcohol, due to it's being made for purposes other than human consumption.

Unfortunately, many died, or went blind as a result of drinking Ethyl Alcohol that had been treated with wood alcohol (Methyl Alcohol).

The government was well aware of the deaths, but probably chalked it up to ignoring what was probably considered common sense.

Yes, I am well aware that common sense and government does not go hand in hand, but it (common sense, or lack of) does serve as an excuse for some...

12/14/2011 5:07 PM  

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