If you are purchasing hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, avoid purchasing products that contain methanol, a type of wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.
In recent weeks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified over 100 products that contain methanol. In a recent warning in late July, the agency said it had established an import alert to prevent certain hand sanitizers from entering the United States and is encouraging retailers to stop selling the products.
The initial press release on this topic issued on June 19, highlighted nine hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV, that were found to contain methanol.
According to the release, samples of the Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ were tested. The Lavar Gel product "contains 81% methanol and no ethyl alcohol," while CleanCare No Germ "contains 28% methanol."
In early July, the organization identified additional hand sanitizer products containing methanol:
- Grupo Insoma's Hand Sanitizer Gel Unscented, 70% alcohol)
- Transliquid Technologies' Mystic Shield Protection Hand Sanitizer
- Soluciones Cosmeticas' Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free and Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution Hand Sanitizer
- Tropicosmeticos' Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%
By July 8, several dozen more products had been added to the list for either containing methanol or for being created in a facility where other contaminated products were made and have been recommended for recall. Some of those brands include:
- Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer
- KLAR AND DANVER Instant Hand Sanitizer (labeled with Greenbrier International Inc.)
- MODESA Instant Hand Sanitizer Moisturizers and Vitamin E
- The Honeykeeper Hand Sanitizer
- Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer
- Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer
- LumiSkin Advance Hand Sanitizer
Later in July, more than two dozen more types of contaminated hand sanitizer were added to the list, including multiple products produced by Mexican company Real Clean Distribuciones SA de CV. Some of the products were labelled as being anti-bacterial. Some of the products added include:
- Born Basic. Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer
- Scent Theory – Keep It Clean – Pure Clean Anti-bacterial Hand Sanitizer
- ENLIVEN Hand Sanitizing Gel
- Lux Eoi Hand Sanitizing Gel
By late July, several other hand sanitizers produced in Mexico were also recalled, including:
- Shine and Clean Hand Sanitizer, manufactured by Maquiladora Miniara, SA de CV
- DAESI hand sanitizer, manufactured by Yara Elena De La Garza Perez Nieto
- Hand sanitizer (labeled with Wet Look Janitorial and Gardening Corp.), manufactured by Soluciones Cosmeticas SA de CV
- Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel 70% Ethyl Alcohol (labeled with Resource Recovery & Trading LLC), manufactured by MXL Comercial SA de CV
In total, there are currently 101 types of hand sanitizer listed on the FDA's site.
"Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects," said the FDA release. "Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning."
According to NBC News, 10 deaths and several hospitalizations in Arizona and New Mexico are believed to be linked to methanol in hand sanitizers, though the brands have not been confirmed. It's believed that some of the hand sanitizer may have been ingested, rather than applied to the skin.
The FDA warns that "substantial methanol exposure" can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or even death. Those who are most at risk for these symptoms, according to the FDA, are "young children who accidentally ingest these products" and "adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute."
If you are using hand sanitizer, make sure to use a product that does not contain methanol and contains at least 60% ethanol. However, the FDA recommends that people wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, as opposed to using hand sanitizer.
This story was updated on July 22 to include information about further recalls and on July 27 with the FDA's new warning. This story as updated again on July 31 to reflect further recalls.
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