Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Chemist's War

Great article up on Slate, The Chemist's War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

During Prohibition people were using industrial grade alcohol to make mixed drinks. Problem was, in order to be 'tax free' industrial alcohol by law had to be (and continues to be) "denatured". Which, as we know, is a polite euphemism for 'Poisoned."

But those plucky mobsters in their big hats paid chemists a fortune to 're-nature' tens of thousands of gallons of stolen industrial hooch. So the government steadily increased the toxicity of the chemicals used to denature the spirits. Which meant the mob chemist-treated bootleg alcohol was of increasingly varying quality and safety.

Estimates are that nearly 10,000 people died during Prohibition from drinking government poisoned alcohol.

What's most interesting is the sort of "they brought it on themselves" mentality that Congress took, even while people were dying in the hundreds every holiday season.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.