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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 03:25 GMT 04:25 UK
'Aftershave drink' kills Russians
Russian aftershave products on sale
Many cheap aftershaves contain high levels of ethanol
Russian men are risking death by drinking aftershave and cleaning agents, a study has suggested.

UK researchers estimated that half of all deaths in working age men in the country are due to hazardous drinking.

The products, which also include herbal tinctures sold in pharmacies, are widely available, cheap and contain up to 97% alcohol, the Lancet study says.

It was found that they contain very few toxins but are deadly simply because of the extreme alcohol levels.

Russian men have an "exceptionally low" life expectancy of 59 years, compared with 72 years for women.

People are dying because of the concentration of alcohol in a cheap, readily available form
Professor David Leon

Men of working age are three-and-a-half times more likely to die than men in Britain.

Past studies have shown levels of alcohol consumption among the Russian population, where spirits such as vodka are popular, are high.

But the team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wanted to take into account non-beverage alcohol.

They looked at 1,750 deaths in men aged 25 to 54 years in 2003 and 2005 in Izhevsk, a typical Russian city in the Western Ural region.

Family members were interviewed about the drinking habits of the deceased.

High mortality

Hazardous drinking - classed as excessive consumption of regular drinks such as beer, wine and spirits or drinking of non-beverage alcohol - was found to cause 43% of deaths.

Men who drank heavily or who drank non-beverage alcohol, were six times more likely to die than similar men who did not drink at all or did not have a drinking problem.

Those who specifically drank non-beverage alcohol were nine times more likely to die than those who did not.

Lead researcher Professor David Leon said: "We're talking about things like eau de cologne and aftershave which are widely available at kiosks and cheaper because they are not subject to excise duty.

"The important work we have done is the toxicology and with many of these products all that's in them is water and ethanol and something to make them smell a bit - people are dying because of the concentration of alcohol in a cheap, readily available form.

"They should be more strictly regulated."

He said the toll might be even higher as his work only concentrated on men who lived with their families.

Andrew McNeill, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said there was a problem with heavy drinking in Eastern Europe in general.

"It has fluctuated in Russia - under Communism, alcohol was the only thing people could afford.

"Gorbachev tried to sober everyone up but he couldn't sustain it."

He added that rapid economic development in recent years may have added to the social problems which often underlie heavy drinking.

"In Western countries, there's a link between alcohol and health inequalities.

"We don't find much more heavy drinking in poorer populations but morbidity and mortality tends to be higher because it compounds other problems."

Dr Jurgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada, said that many factors might have affected death rates in Russia during the time covered by the study, with non-beverage alcohol "highly unlikely to be the main contributor".

Illegal spirits are seized by Russian police

Drink headache plagues Russia
15 Jun 07 |  Europe
Russians dying for a drink
03 Nov 06 |  Europe
How the Europeans drink
19 Sep 03 |  Health

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