FDA adds to growing list of hand sanitizers that could be fatal to consumers

Photo (c) Drazen Zigic - Getty Images

Some of the products are still available online and on shelves

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued another warning regarding potentially lethal hand sanitizers. The new warning specifically targets hand sanitizer products containing methanol (aka wood alcohol and ethyl alcohol).

Methanol may be great as a gasoline additive or to produce antifreeze, but it’s completely unacceptable in the FDA’s eyes as an ingredient in hand sanitizers. Whether it’s absorbed through the skin or ingested, a variety of adverse events have been reported in both adults and children who were exposed to the substance. These include blindness, seizures, comas, and even death. 

Additionally, the agency has also witnessed an increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol) but which also test positive for methanol contamination. 

Stay away from these products

In June, the FDA began its anti-methanol campaign when it warned consumers about products manufactured by Eskbiochem, which contained methanol. As a result, several of Eskbiochem’s distributors have done voluntary recalls.

But that was only the agency’s first step in this crusade. It continues to update a list of products consumers should avoid, and it is working with manufacturers and distributors of these toxic products to recall them. 

New additions to the list include sanitizers that are all based in Mexico. They include Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel, Mystic Shield Protection hand sanitizer, and Britz Hand Sanitizer. The complete list of hand sanitizers to avoid is available here.

Remaining vigilant

The FDA warns consumers that there are no hand sanitizer products that are “FDA-approved,” and it also warns that any hand sanitizer that claims it can provide prolonged protection (i.e., “up to 24 hours”) should also be avoided.

The agency urges consumers to be aware that not all of these products have been taken off the shelves of retailers or online stores. As an example, ConsumerAffairs found a number of hand sanitizer products that contained methanol or ethyl alcohol on Amazon. Consumers would be smart to include both of those ingredients in any search they do for hand sanitizer products and to take a careful look at the “important information” at the bottom of each product’s listing.

“Unfortunately, there are some companies taking advantage of the increased usage of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk by selling products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients. Consumers and health care providers should not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. 

“The FDA remains committed to working with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the safe supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This includes staying vigilant and continuing to take action when quality issues with hand sanitizers arise.”

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