EAST LONDON, South Africa – South African investigators confirmed Tuesday that traces of the toxic chemical methanol were found in the blood of 21 teenagers found dead June 26 in an East London nightclub.
Dr. Litha Matiwane, Eastern Cape provincial deputy director for clinical service, said during a Tuesday news conference that further testing will determine whether the concentration levels of the colorless liquid with a strong odor detected in the teens were high enough to be pinpointed as the official cause of death, USA Today reported.
Authorities are still awaiting the conclusive results which are being conducted at a laboratory in the city of Cape Town, The Associated Press reported.
The Guardian characterized methanol as a “toxic form of alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide or an alternative source of fuel” but not in the production of alcohol sold for human consumption.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methanol can be absorbed through the eyes, skin, lungs and stomach.
The teens’ bodies were discovered at the Enyobeni Tavern “lying on tables, slumped over chairs and sprawled on the floor of the club,” USA Today reported, noting that the victims ranged in age from 13 to 17 and showed no visible signs of trauma.
Initial toxicology tests also analyzed levels of alcohol and carbon monoxide in the teens’ blood but found nothing profound, Matiwane said.
Meanwhile, National Police Minister Bheki Cele said final toxicology analysis reports will determine whether anyone will face criminal charges in the case, USA Today reported.