To address growing problems with hand santizers that may contain dangerous ingredients, federal regulators are enacting more stringent measures this week to warn and protect the public, and expanding a “Do-Not-Use” list issued earlier this month.
In a press release issued on Monday, the FDA announced new enforcement measures designed to address the risk of poisonous hand sanitizers that may contain methanol, a toxic wood alcohol which can cause serious injury or death if ingested or absorbed through the skin.
As the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States continues to worsen, manufacturers have ramped up production of hand sanitizers to help the public disinfect their hands when soap and water is unavailable. However, some manufacturers are endangering users by adding the potentially toxic ingredient methanol to their products.
Methanol is often used to create fuel and antifreeze, and can be toxic and lead to life-threatening emergencies in some cases.
In recent weeks the FDA has warned consumers to avoid using certain hand sanitizer products due to a risk of methanol poisoning. However, the agency continues to find methanol in additional products.
In response, the FDA has expanded its list of Do-Not-Use hand sanitizers to include more than 75 different products believed to contain methanol.
Additionally, the FDA issued an import alert which allows the agency to immediately detain certain hand sanitizers shipped into the U.S. for further testing or investigation.
“Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ. Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use, and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizer products,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in the press release. “We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol.”
The agency action comes after several hand sanitizers have been recalled in recent weeks after methanol was discovered as an ingredient.
In most cases, methanol will not be listed on the product label, so many consumers will be unaware the hand sanitizer contains the harmful ingredient. FDA testing has indicated the hand sanitizer products listed on the Do-Not-Use contain 1% to 8%.methanol.
An increasing number of adverse events, including blindness, cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system and hospitalizations have been reported. Ingestion of hand sanitizers containing methanol has resulted in several deaths.
The FDA is urging retailers to remove the products from store shelves and online marketplaces to avoid serious side effects to unknowing consumers.
The agency is also warning consumers to avoid using hand sanitizer products on the Do-Not-Use list. Additionally, consumers should avoid any hand sanitizer made by manufacturers of products on the list, even if that product or lot number is not listed specifically. When possible, consumers should opt for hand washing using soap and water.