Methanol is a substance that can occur naturally in small amounts in the body. The main sources of methanol in the body include fruits, vegetables, and diet drinks that contain aspartame.
Methanol is a type of alcohol that is sometimes used for industrial and automotive purposes. It is most common in cleaning fluids and solvents. It can be toxic if you eat or drink it in amounts as small as 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) or if you inhale it. Methanol is sometimes called "wood alcohol."
A test can be done to measure the amount of methanol in your blood.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed. The blood is collected from a vein, most often in your arm or hand venipuncture.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is necessary.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing where the needle was inserted.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to see if you have a toxic level of methanol in your body. You should not drink or inhale methanol. However, some people accidentally drink methanol, or drink it on purpose as a substitute for grain alcohol (ethanol).
Methanol is very poisonous if you eat or drink it in toxic amounts as little as 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters). Methanol poisoning mainly affects the digestive system, nervous system, and eyes, and permanent blindness may occur.
A normal result is below a toxic cut-off level.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result means you may have methanol poisoning.
Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Emergency Response Safety and Health Database. Methanol: systemic agent.
Meehan TJ. Care of the poisoned patient. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 135.
Nelson LS. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 102.
Last reviewed on: 10/25/2022
Reviewed by: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.