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Hand sanitiser stations have been set up in town and city centres across England to help shoppers protect themselves from coronavirus as lockdown restrictions are eased. However, many of these stations are being smashed up by vandals who then drink the alcohol gel inside, it has been reported.

The claim was made by BusinessWaste.co.uk, a York-based company contracted with disposing of thousands of gel containers up and down the country every week. What is most concerning is that, not only is the alcohol content high enough for someone to overdose before they even start to feel drunk, the other chemicals that make up hand gel are not remotely fit for human consumption.

“It’s happening all over the place, pretty much everywhere”, Director Mark Hall told The Independent. “We take these away for councils and businesses, and we’re seeing so many damaged you wouldn’t believe. It’s mindless idiocy. This stuff is 80% proof with who knows what other chemicals inside. Do not drink it.”

Mr Hall added that at least one supermarket chain the company dealt with had reported that such gels had become a prime target of shoplifters.

In the North East town of Hebburn, several hand sanitiser stations have been removed after residents and businesses reported them being targeted.

“We are aware that a small minority of people are using hand sanitiser stations inappropriately”, said a spokesperson for South Tyneside Council, which installed the units. “This is totally unacceptable and we urge people to behave responsibly. Any damage will be reported to the police.”

“These points have been installed for the benefit of the whole community and in line with government guidance around social distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent further spread of Covid-19.”

According to Sciencenotes.org, drinking hand sanitiser goes by special names, like “hand sanitrippin’,” “getting hand sanitized,” “getting a hand sanity fix,” and “getting drunk on Mr Clean’s tears.” Two types of alcohol are used in alcohol-based hand sanitisers. The most common type contains between 60% and 95% ethanol. This type of hand sanitiser is equivalent to 120-proof liquor. In contrast, vodka is 80-proof. The other type of alcohol-based hand sanitiser contains isopropyl alcohol. This kind of alcohol is toxic and can cause brain damage, blindness, and kidney and liver damage. The initial effects of drinking isopropyl alcohol are much like those of drinking ethanol: intoxication, slurred speech, dizziness and blurred vision. However, the ingredient with the potential to be the most toxic in hand sanitiser gel will often be listed as just ‘fragrance’ because these scents are often made using petrochemicals, according to the webpage.

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