The composition of unrecorded alcohol from eastern Ukraine: is there a toxicological concern beyond ethanol alone?

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Oct;48(10):2842-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.07.016. Epub 2010 Jul 16.


In 2005, approximately half of all alcohol consumption in Ukraine was unrecorded. This paper investigates the chemical composition of unrecorded and low-cost alcohol, including a toxicological evaluation. A sample of alcohol products (n=78) from both recorded and unrecorded sources was obtained mainly from eastern Ukraine, and chemically analyzed. Analysis entailed alcoholic strength, levels of volatile compounds (methanol, acetaldehyde, higher alcohols), ethyl carbamate, anions, and inorganic elements. The majority of unrecorded alcohol was homemade samohon with alcoholic strength averaging close to 40% vol. A limited number of samples, advertised for medicinal purposes, were identified with high alcoholic strengths (above 60% vol.). Single samples showed contamination with acetaldehyde and ethyl carbamate above the levels of toxicological concern. Metal contamination was frequent, with copper levels above 2mg/l in 33 samples, and zinc above 5mg/l in 10 samples. Overall, however, the composition of unrecorded samples did not raise major public health concerns other those for ethanol. The priority of alcohol policy in Ukraine should be the general reduction of alcohol consumption with a specific focus on that from small-scale home production. Further research is needed on potential mitigative measures and the origin of the metal contamination in particular alcoholic beverages.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Beverages / analysis*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / toxicity*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / analysis*
  • Ethanol / analysis*
  • Flame Ionization
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Metals / analysis
  • Public Health
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Ukraine
  • Urethane / analysis
  • Water / analysis


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Metals
  • Water
  • Urethane
  • Ethanol