Two children last week were born with alcohol poisoning because their mothers were pissed out of their heads when they gave birth to them.
News stories of a similar type are sometimes like London buses: nothing comes along for ages, then several turn up at once.
So it’s been with the two ‘drunk baby’ stories. About mid week it was reported that a baby was born with 1.2 promille of alcohol in his blood; yesterday it was reported that a baby girl had been born with almost 2 promille in her’s.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal for new born babies, and the little girl was rushed to intensive care and put on a respirator.
The mother of the little girl – Grazyna K. (she is going to be charged with…I don’t know what, maybe grievous bodily harm) claimed that she, “Only hic had a cupple of glashes of wine wit me friendzhhh….’. When they tested her blood, 1.95 promille of alcohol was swimming around in there.
Maybe news stories travel together like London buses, or hang around together like the proverbial Polish drunks on the corners of housing blocks, because journalists start looking for them after the first one has broken; maybe people are more likely to report them after they see the first one in the news. Who knows? But just how common is the alcoholic, or binge drinking, pre-natal in Poland?
Not so pissed Poles
It is estimated that there are around 1 million alcoholics in Poland, and 3 million people ‘abuse’ drink. Annual consumption is estimated by the World Health Organization at 10 liters of (ethanol) alcohol per capita a year.
How does that compare with the rest of Europe? Well, quite well. The EU average is 12 liters a year. In Britain it’s estimated that over 6 million regularly ‘abuse alcohol’ – i.e. binge drink. Brits ‘binge’ 40 percent of the time they sit down for a drink. On average Brits consume around two liters more alcohol a year than Poles.
Luxemburgers - is that what we call people from Luxembourg?) drink 17 liters of alcohol a year, and so are Europe’s top piss artists (though I do not remember encountering a pack of drunks from Luxembourg on my travels – come to think of it, I don’t remember ever coming across a single person from Luxembourg outside Luxembourg; maybe they don’t like traveling all that much. They are probably too busy staying at home most nights getting completely trashed.).
In the US, ‘1 in 100’ babies are born with ‘Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’ (FAS). The symptoms of FAS include facial deformities, learning difficulties, stunted growth…
So what is the safe amount of alcohol for a mother?
Ability magazine claims that there is no safe limit:
[S}studies suggest even a single episode of consuming as little as two drinks may lead to loss of fetal brain cells (one drink = 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor).
For everyone else, the British government, which is now on a crusade to make Brits drink like their European 'continental' partners (who, like Luxemburgers?) say that more than three to four units of alcohol (pint of beer) constitutes a ‘binge’…two pints of beer and it’s a ‘binge’.
The World Health Organization found that 38 percent of Polish men admitted that they were ‘binge drinkers’., 24 percent of Brits identified themselves with this label.
The obvious problem with all this advice is that there is no standard way of measuring what a ‘unit’ of alcohol’ is. Each country seems to have a different measure.
In Britain one unit is 8 grams of alcohol; in Poland one unit is 10 grams; in the US it’s 14 grams.
If you want to binge drink then go and do it in New York – there you can get through up to four pints of beer before the health police start to feel your collar.
So the two awful ‘drunk baby’ stories this week actually appear quite rare in Poland, a country that isn’t so every strange in its drinking habits – that’s why they are headline making stories.
What these type of stories are good for, though, is in creating folk devils with which we can compare ourselves with and feel superior. And what better folk devil than the smashed pregnant woman?
FAS rates by country
(Warning: it is unclear how much symptoms of FAS in these children are caused by alcohol alone.)