Two Tennessee teens died after drinking a mixture of racing fuel and Mountain Dew, and two others were sickened by the mixture they called "Dewshine," Tennessee Poison Center Medical Director Donna Seger said Wednesday.
The teens evidently thought they could drink poisonous methanol as a substitute for ethanol, the ingredient in alcoholic beverages that causes intoxication, Seger said.
"That was their intent," she said. "Unfortunately methanol is extremely toxic."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine, on its website, calls methanol "a nondrinking type of alcohol used for industrial and automotive purposes," noting it can be found in antifreeze, canned heating sources, paint thinner, and octane boosters.
It's sometimes called "wood alcohol."
A toxicology report on one of the teens who died confirmed he had ingested methanol. Seger said she did not know how much of the mixture the teen had drunk, but said it was "a lot."
Seger said the Robertson County teens didn't realize drinking methanol could kill them, and she called last week's poisonings an accident.
She said this is the first time she has seen this type of poisoning. The four cases are the only ones reported in Tennessee, and Seger is not aware of any cases in other states. But she said it is possible "Dewshine" is more widespread.
"If it hadn't been for the deaths, we probably wouldn't have noticed," she said.
Greenbrier Police Chief KD Smith said the teenagers drank the methanol on Jan. 20. One of the teens died the next day while another was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and died on Monday. The two other teens were treated and released on Thursday or Friday, he said. Police are continuing to investigate.