I purchased a bottle of this stuff at store in the H terminal at O’Hare. Isn’t that just a little bit scary? I couldn’t believe that they sold something so dangerous. They cart away buckets and garbage cans full of juice and water and mayo and other harmless liquids before security. Then you walk through TSA security and you find impliments of destruction way worse than anything you are allowed to bring into the airport. You are not permitted to bring flammable things onto the plane…so why do they sell them in the terminal?

According to Wiki:

Transparent, colorless or colored as desired, mobile, volatile liquid, with an extremely bitter taste, and in the absence of added odorous substances, a characteristic odour; flammable; specific gravity of Formula 23-H is between 0.8691 and 0.8771 at 15.56°.

Rubbing alcohol should be used in a well-ventilated area. Some cautions go so far as to say protective gloves should be worn while using it. Poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of rubbing alcohol.

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death if consumed.

Mixing rubbing alcohol with pool chlorine can result in a Haloform reaction [1], generating lots of heat and boiling off its products as excess gas. If this chemical reaction is done inside a closed plastic container, the gas can build up until it ruptures violently. This can pose a serious risk of injury as the chemicals (such as bleach) and shrapnel from the container are thrown outward by the explosion.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah

20 Comments

  • Among the trinkets (out of glass), cosmetics and liquors, they sell lots of items at duty free that are, IMHO, risky material. I suppose they feel safe enough to let people get those once they’ve undergone security inspection, also because the sealed plastic bags that you get when you buy certain stuff are not supposed to be opened before or during your flight, so they may keep an eye on people that do open those bags, and I’ve also seen security to demand people to leave stuff they purchased and “possibly harmful” items of clothing (e.g. chain belts) with the cabin crew till landing. I think they also look out for certain profiles; a middle-aged bearded rabbi might not be too threatening. 😉

  • The liquids ban is theater, plain and simple. It’s there to make people feel safer, not because it actually accomplishes anything.

    And who cares if they’re selling rubbing alcohol? It seems like a kind of stupid thing to be selling, but seriously, what’s the big deal?

    Name one thing you can do with a little bottle of rubbing alcohol for which I can’t find a substitute in a typical business traveler’s carryon bag or elsewhere in the terminal.

    Want to start a fire? Clothing burns pretty darn well.

    Want to chemically burn someone’s eyes? Perfume is sold in every duty free shop in the world and is often mostly alcohol. And there are plenty of noxious chemicals in the janitor’s closet of every airport terminal.

    Want to blow something up? No matter how clever a chemist you are, you’re not going to create an explosion big enough to take down a plane with a little bottle of alcohol.

    People need to chill out and just get on their planes. The TSA is a joke. The Air Marshal program is even worse. Pulling off another 9/11 would be incredibly difficult not because of the billions of dollars we spend on “security,” but because beginning with United flight 91, passengers have repeatedly demonstrated that they simply won’t cooperate with hijackers or other in-flight craziness any more.

    And there’s really nothing special about airports themselves as terror targets. If you want to hurt or kill a lot of people, there are a ton of potential targets that are easier to hit and have a far higher density of people (shopping malls, train stations, etc.).

  • And the vodka in the duty free (as well as many other high alcoholic content drinks there) is any better?

  • themicah –
    Thanks for your comments.
    While not a pyro – Rubbing Alcohol at 70 percent is stronger than all of the perfumes and most of the liquors at duty free.

    And your challenge. …
    Name one thing you can do with a little bottle of rubbing alcohol for which I can’t find a substitute in a typical business traveler’s carryon bag or elsewhere in the terminal.

    I am sure that you are mistaken. For ever bag is now screened for liquids. Yes, if someone wanted to smuggle high tech plastic explosives that is another story.

    But my point was that why are we providing flammable and volitile liquids feet from the gate?

    And as far as airports not being targets…

    There have been repeated attacks by terror cells at airports.

    Terror is not about just hurting people – its about fear and disrupting the economy. Therefor an airport is a good target.

    Lastly, yes, the passengers are more aware.
    The TSA however is a welcome addition. I fly with more peace of mind…

  • I am sure that you are mistaken. For ever bag is now screened for liquids.

    Please name something I can do with rubbing alcohol that I can’t do with something else I can find in my carryon or elsewhere in the terminal. I can do far more damage with an umbrella than with a bottle of rubbing alcohol.

    Screening carryons for all liquids wastes time, diverts attention from looking for real dangerous items (how many actual weapons have gone through as a result of TSA’s relentless focus on water and toothpaste?) and contributes to airside bottled water sales. It does NOT make us safer.

    If it made us safer, don’t you think they’d have the same rules in TLV? Guess what. They don’t.

    There have been repeated attacks by terror cells at airports.

    Name three. I’ll even give you two: the LAX El Al ticket counter shooter, and the Glasgow self-immolating physicians. Would banning rubbing alcohol have prevented either of those? Can you name a third?

    The TSA however is a welcome addition. I fly with more peace of mind…

    PLEASE tell me you’re kidding. The TSA steals, both officially (hydration, lighters, penknives, etc.) and unofficially (cash, jewelry, electronic devices, etc. from suitcases they search). They’re theoretically not allowed to look for drugs or other non-security-related contraband, yet they get bonuses if they find those things. They contract out their get-me-off-the-no-fly-list service to a company that has had terrible privacy practices. And the list just keeps going.

    The TSA is not a welcome addition. It is a colossal waste of resources and quite ineffective at its task.

    But my point was that why are we providing flammable and volitile liquids feet from the gate?

    The answer is simple: because lots of things are inflammable and volatile and this stuff just isn’t that big a deal. I agree that it’s ironic that they sell it by the gate after going to so much effort to take away my shampoo, but it doesn’t make me feel less safe. It just reinforces the point that their policies are stupid.

  • themicah, saying that “the TSA” steals from luggage they are trusted with is a strong claim; you need definite evidence for making such a claim, rather than hear-say. I travel to NYC a lot; never ever has an item gone missing that I checked in at JFK.

  • so I suppose you want to blame this whole situation on the republicans and the terrible government we have in the U.S. rather on the crazy motherfuckers who rammed airplanes into the twin towers and pentagon….

  • I don’t think that the TSA makes us safe, just safer. As far as being a colossal waste — I remember the partially literate people who used to check bags at airports. The dazed and confused drop outs that were assigned the tasks that are now in the hands of a more motivated, better trained, and much more effective group.

    Thank you for agreeing the with irony. At least we can agree on one point.

    Lastly – the restriction on liquids only boosts up the costs of those willing to pay for the 3 dollar water.

    Bring an empty bottle and fill it from a drinking fountain on the other side 🙂

  • Sarah, evidence:

    “Theft from Luggage Rampant at Sea-Tac Airport” (http://www.kirotv.com/airports/14295025/detail.html)

    “JFK Screeners Arrested for Wallet Theft” (http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=local&id=3725782)

    “LaG, JFK Airport Screeners Stole from Checked Bags” (http://www.qgazette.com/News/2004/0818/Front_Page/001.html)

    “TSA Under Pressure to Stop Baggage Theft” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A45823-2003Jun28?language=printer)

    Want more? Google “TSA theft” and you’ll find dozens more stories.

    In truth, I believe the problem peaked a couple years ago.

    But a good friend of mine had his digital camera charger stolen from his checked luggage at LGA just a few months ago. While he can’t prove that the TSA did it and not an airline employee, his bag did have one of those “your privacy has been violated by the TSA” calling cards in it when he arrived at his destination. And the TSA mailed him a check for the value of the charger as restitution after he filed a complaint. Our tax dollars hard at work to make us “safer!”

    Despite my vehement dislike for Kip Hawley, the man DOES seem to be trying to improve things. But they have a long, long, long way to go. And they could start today by rescinding the idiotic liquids ban.

  • Oh, and if you still think rubbing alcohol is a threat, let’s talk about the Air Marshal program.

    The gov’t spends just shy of a billion dollars a year on that program alone. What does it accomplish?

    1) Brings guns into airplane cabins after all those efforts by screeners to keep them out (and although Air Marshals are undercover, they’ve often VERY easily identified–I’ve spotted them at least three times, and have no doubt that a patient terrorist team who wanted their guns could spot them, too).

    2) Takes away revenue from the airlines by occupying at least two prime aisle seats (usually in first or business class) on every flight they “protect.” The airlines receive NO compensation for this, and are required to bump paying passengers if a Marshal team wants to be on a particular flight (or in a particular seat) at the last minute.

    3) Since 9/11, there has been NO public evidence that a Marshal has ever actually helped anything, aside from one passenger who had a heart attack in a terminal and a Marshal happened to be the first one to help with CPR. On the flip side, there have been numerous incidents where passengers and crew handled in-flight disturbances (UA91, the shoe bomber, numerous drunk/mentally disturbed passengers who have tried to break into the cockpit, the Spanish flight where the flight attendants threw hot coffee in an armed hijacker’s face, etc.), sometimes disturbances where there were Marshals on board who didn’t help quell the disturbance. And the Air Marshals have shot and killed one mentally disturbed (but otherwise completely innocent) passenger in Miami.

    Yay TSA! We’re so much safer!

  • You wrote above that “the TSA” steals. There possibly are individual fellons among TSA employees, but claiming that “the TSA” steals is over-generalization.

    As for the digicam charger, airlines ask passenger to put all electronics into their carry-on (or specifically point out that they’rechecking in electronics with the checked-in luggage); checked-in electronics may be subject to search and possibly removal. That kind of information can be found on the website of any airline I’ve flown with so far. By purchasing a ticket, I agree to their terms and conditions, particularly their luggage regulations, and I always make sure before leaving for the airport how I need to pack my things. If people just decided to comply to those easy guidelines, it would make the work of security personnel easier, hence more effective.

    If you feel uncomfortable with airline security, go by bus.

  • You wrote above that “the TSA” steals. There possibly are individual fellons among TSA employees, but claiming that “the TSA” steals is over-generalization.

    I said they steal both officially and unofficially. The unofficial stealing is indeed the work of individuals, as it is not agency policy. But one could also argue that the TSA’s poor oversight and policy-making (banning effective luggage locks, for example) makes that theft possible, not to mention that whole “vicarious liability” concept from common law.

    In any event, “the TSA” most certainly does steal officially. They “confiscate” thousands of dollars of liquids and other contraband every day under the pretext of it being “dangerous.” At some airports, however, they’ve turned right around and donated the “dangerous” confiscated shampoo, toothpaste, etc. to homeless shelters and beverages to food pantries. While at first glance this seems like a good idea (why waste the stuff?), if you think about it, if their pretext is real, then that means they’re risking the lives of those poor people by sending them potential explosives and toxins! And if the pretext isn’t real and all that stuff is perfectly safe, why the heck are they stealing it from us in the first place? The TSA is a security agency, not a wealth redistribution scheme.

    I agree with you that if people followed the promulgated rules and guidelines more carefully, there would be fewer problems. TSA employees can’t pilfer cash and electronics from luggage if people don’t put them there. But at this point there are so many rules, and the rules vary so much from day-to-day that even TSA goons can’t tell me whether a 4oz tube of toothpaste is allowed (hint: the 3oz, or at some airports 3.4oz, rule is US FLUID ounces, which are a measure of volume, not weight like the troy ounce measure on my toothpaste).

    And there is no reason a seasoned travelers like my friend (who currently has elite frequent flyer status on two airlines and would never think of putting cash or a laptop in a checked bag) shouldn’t put his camera charger (which is neither dangerous nor particularly valuable) in his bag.

    I’ve felt perfectly comfortable flying the 200,000+ miles I’ve flown in the last five years. But my sense of comfort does NOT come from the TSA and neither should yours. They just anger me. Therefore I’m going to keep pointing out their waste, invasiveness and incompetence until people wake up and realize that the “anything for our security” refrain doesn’t justify the abomination that is the TSA any more than it justifies racial profiling or warrantless searches of our homes (both of which are actually more effective at nabbing bad guys).

  • themicah, my airport of departure usually is Frankfurt/Main. Security there isn’t any different from what I’ve encountered at JFK, Heathrow or any smaller European airport. I’ve piled up quite a few airmiles myself, but I still don’t think luggage regulations are confusing. There’s an airline I prefer going with, but since I fly with them a lot, I’ve subscribed to their newsletter, which keeps me updated in the event of luggage regulation changes. It’s as easy as that. If you think that confiscating items that are banned from the carry-on is theft, then one could argue that packing prohibited items into the carry-on is a breach of contract by the airline’s terms and conditions and might therefore even give the airline the right not to honour your booking. We will never be 100% safe on any means of transportation, but I’m rather upset at terrorists that do try to kill civilians than at airport security. When two Lebanese youths put explosives on two of the trains I usually go with (which they had assembled incorrectly at that), I wasn’t upset at the police for evacuating all trains and train stations either.

  • I’m rather upset at terrorists that do try to kill civilians than at airport security. When two Lebanese youths put explosives on two of the trains I usually go with (which they had assembled incorrectly at that), I wasn’t upset at the police for evacuating all trains and train stations either.

    I agree that the terrorists are worse than the security personnel. No question. But an evacuation because of actual explosives (even incorrectly assembled ones) is totally different from ongoing harassment and massive spending that’s not even effective.

    Fortunately, the TSA has never had an actual threat to respond to. But like Rabbi Yonah said above, “Terror is not about just hurting people – its about fear and disrupting the economy.”

    Somewhere in a cave in Pakistan, bin Laden and his friends are laughing their asses off at the billions of dollars we’re spending for our liquid-free, shoes-off, laptops-out, “how dare you approach the metal detector before I tell you to” culture of “security.”

  • See, it would irriate them if it didn’t bother us.

    Ha. Excellent way to end to the conversation. Shabbat shalom.

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