Following reports of hospitalizations and deaths linked to hand sanitizers, federal regulators warn that certain products made with methanol may pose a serious risk to consumer health.
On July 2, the FDA issued a warning to the public about the risks of methanol hand sanitizers, which can be toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin.
As a result of the increasing need for hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol are being widely sold, despite the potential serious harm the products pose to consumers.
Methanol is a wood alcohol often used to make fuel and antifreeze. Methanol exposure can also lead to side effects like headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, blindness, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death.
The FDA warns methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizer and can lead to blindness, hospitalizations and even death.
In June, the FDA announced a hand sanitizer recall and warned consumers about Saniderm hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem. The products contained methanol and lead to the deaths of three consumers after they ingested it. Other reports have linked the products to permanent blindness.
However, a number of other hand sanitizer products labeled as containing ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, have since tested positive for methanol contamination. The FDA has issued an expanded list of recalled and tested products.
The agency is communicating with manufacturers and distributors of the products about initiating additional recalls. The FDA also continues to test hand sanitizers for methanol, including products entering the U.S. from other countries.
Despite the ongoing efforts by the FDA and the continued warnings, some of the hand sanitizer products contain methanol may still be available at retail stores and online.
“All Americans should practice good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in the warning.“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.”
Consumers who have experienced any side effects after using hand sanitizer should stop using it immediately, seek medical care if necessary, and contact the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.