Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some start drinking alcohol young in Poland

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.)


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Over the weekend, from our flat ,my wife and I were amused to see a man in his 30s,secretly,he though,swigging a quick one(but large measure) from a vodka bottle, behind our local newspaper kiosk.

What was not so funny and rather worrying, was that he was supposed to be looking after the small boy(just able to walk) who was walking in front of him near the tram tracks.

If you called the police about this ,they would just laugh at you ,as alcoholism appears to be accepted as normal behaviour from young father's in Poland and as I saw last year,the Police would prefer to pounce on and fine harmless Polish granny's crossing the tracks,even though they are perfectly sober!


beatroot said...

I was sitting outside the local barek, drinking a nice cool beer and reading something. Nice. Then I noticed that a mother was sitting at a table near by and breast feeding her baby. Cool with me. Then I noticed that she had a beer in front of her and a smoldering cigarette in the ashtray. Suddenly it didn’t look so nice.

But we use these type of characters to make us feel virtuous. I really don’t think moderate alcohol intake is going to affect unborn babies. Heavy smoking is another matter….

Graeme said...

clearly, the answer is to ban alcohol and force prayer in schools.

Graeme said...

I forgot to ask, can you drink outdoors in Poland? You can't in most parts of the U.S (unless on private property). I know some places in Europe you can. I went to Germany last year and got trashed with some dude at a train station.

Anonymous said...

Is there a lack of education given to women regarding prenatal care in Poland? No need for serious penalties the crime follows the perpetrator around for a lot longer then any prison sentence.

Has anyone found what the by country statistics are for FAS or for that matter is there an actual problem with this being more prevalent in Poland than elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Remember that such things happen in every country, there is nothing special about seeing nursing mothers drinkin and smoking in Poland, I have seen it in the UK many times.

See the link to the Scotsman newspaper on the problem in Ediburgh in 2006. Remember this is only stats for hospitalisation cases. Anyone got better stats.

Anonymous said...

As you guys are, most likely, not nursing a baby at the moment you are not aware it is often suggested that breast-feeding mothers should drink beer to improve lactation. In moderation, of course. The beer recommended in Poland is called 'Karmi'. Not exactly 'Guinness', but it does the trick.
Graeme, as to your question, there is an open-container law in Poland. It is probably not as vigorously enforced as it is elsewhere, so people do not wrap up their favorite drinks in brown paper bags to fool the law enforcement.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

I have put a link to FAS rates by country at the bottom of the post.

Metka by Traczka said...

Nobody seemed to notice that these women (mentioned on TV reports) were drinking badly long before the pregnancy. They were alcoholics long before, so pregnancy wouldn't suddenly change their habits.
On the other hand lots of my friends when pregnant had occasional glass of wine and nothing wrong happened. One of them, late with giving birth by few days, went to a wedding party, had a glass of red wine, danced a bit (as a havily pregnant woman can dance, of course) and just after coming back from the party gave birth to a beautiful baby-girl called Matylda. And it took no more than 3 hours.

Maybe a bit of wine can halp sometimes? Isn't it all about common sense?

Anonymous said...

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be dangerous to you and your baby. Babies born to mothers who drink during pregnancy may have health problems.
Will it hurt my baby even if I don't drink every day?
Yes. Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful. Because no amount of alcohol can be considered safe, pregnant women should avoid all alcohol during the entire pregnancy. (Drinks with alcohol in them include beer, wine, hard liquor and wine coolers.)

"Binge drinking"--having 5 or more drinks at a time--is particularly dangerous for your baby, because it makes the level of alcohol in your blood very high very quickly. So, even if you don't drink every day, you may put your baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks too much alcohol during pregnancy. A baby born with FAS may be seriously handicapped and require a lifetime of special care. Some babies with alcohol-related birth defects, including smaller body size, lower birth weight, and other impairments, do not have all of the classic FAS symptoms. These symptoms are sometimes referred to as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). Researchers do not all agree on the precise distinctions between FAS and FAE cases.
Cause of the Problem: Alcohol in a pregnant woman's bloodstream circulates to the fetus by crossing the placenta. There, the alcohol interferes with the ability of the fetus to receive sufficient oxygen and nourishment for normal cell development in the brain and other body organs.

Possible FAS Symptoms:

Growth deficiencies: small body size and weight, slower than normal development and failure to catch up.
Skeletal deformities: deformed ribs and sternum; curved spine; hip dislocations; bent, fused, webbed, or missing fingers or toes; limited movement of joints; small head.
Facial abnormalities: small eye openings; skin webbing between eyes and base of nose; drooping eyelids; nearsightedness; failure of eyes to move in same direction; short upturned nose; sunken nasal bridge; flat or absent groove between nose and upper lip; thin upper lip; opening in roof of mouth; small jaw; low-set or poorly formed ears.
Organ deformities: heart defects; heart murmurs; genital malformations; kidney and urinary defects.
Central nervous system handicaps: small brain; faulty arrangement of brain cells and connective tissue; mental retardation -- usually mild to moderate but occasionally severe; learning disabilities; short attention span; irritability in infancy; hyperactivity in childhood; poor body, hand, and finger coordination.
Now, is drinking during pregnancy a good thing? You be the judge however, my guess is no!

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