Methanol, a toxic alcohol used industrially as a solvent, pesticide and alternative fuel source, was found in the blood samples of all the 21 youngsters who died at Enyobeni tavern tragedy in the Eastern Cape last month.
But Dr Litha Matiwane, Eastern Cape health department deputy director general for clinical services, on Tuesday said these were just qualitative results and can’t yet be used to verify the exact cause of the deaths.
“There is still progressive analysis of the levels of methanol. So we just have the qualitative results that says all 21 of them had methanol in their blood, but we still need to get the quantitative levels which will then tell us whether these were at lethal or non-lethal levels as well,” he said.
Matiwane said the first three samples were for blood alcohol levels, carbon monoxide levels and qualitative methanol levels.
He said blood alcohol levels on the victims ranged from 0.05 grams to 0.26 grams per 100ml of blood. Matiwane said this was not conclusive of lethal toxicology and these might not have been final cause of death.
Matiwane said the second layer of results that came through was that of carbon monoxide which was also ranging from 3.3% to 21% saturation of haemoglobin.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels, which portable back-up generators produce.
He said under normal circumstances it was expected toxicology lethal levels to be above 50%, “so again the understanding is that this might not yet be the final cause of… lethal toxicology”.
“In summary… we have now moved from the point where we had said yes we have excluded the stampede but now we do have initial results from the toxicology lab. However at this point in time there are no conclusive results that this is a lethal concoction that we are dealing with.”