In 2005, 30% of all alcohol consumption in Russia was unrecorded. This paper describes the chemical composition of unrecorded and low cost alcohol, including a toxicological evaluation. Alcohol products (n=22) from both recorded and unrecorded sources were obtained from three Russian cities (Saratov, Lipetsk and Irkutsk) and were chemically analyzed. Unrecorded alcohols included homemade samogons, medicinal alcohols and surrogate alcohols. Analysis included alcoholic strength, levels of volatile compounds (methanol, acetaldehyde, higher alcohols), ethyl carbamate, diethyl phthalate (DEP) and polyhexamethyleneguanidine hydrochloride (PHMG). Single samples showed contamination with DEP (275-1269 mg/l) and PHMG (515 mg/l) above levels of toxicological concern. Our detailed chemical analysis of Russian alcohols showed that the composition of vodka, samogon and medicinal alcohols generally did not raise major public health concerns other than for ethanol. It was shown, however, that concentration levels of DEP and PHMG in some surrogate alcohols make these samples unfit for human consumption as even moderate drinking would exceed acceptable daily intakes.
Keywords: Russia; alcohol; alcohol poisoning; product quality; risk assessment; unrecorded alcohol.