Federal health officials warn that more than 100 hand sanitizer products either contain less than effective amounts of active ingredient to kill bacteria or contain potentially harmful amounts of wood alcohol, which can be poisonous.
The FDA issued a hand sanitizer warning on July 31, calling for consumers to avoid more than 100 topical hand sanitizer products recalled due to the presence of methanol, which is a wood alcohol that can cause blindness or lethal outcomes if accidentally ingested. They also warned that many do not contain high enough levels of the active ingredients ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.
Over the last several months the FDA has closely monitored the quality of many imported and domestically manufactured hand sanitizers. The products have flooded the market due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As the demand for the products have skyrocketed, leaving top manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble’s stockpiles nearly depleted, officials have identified more than 100 hand sanitizer products which contain methanol or fail to contain enough active ingredient to be effective, mostly from smaller manufacturers.
While those containing methanol increase the risk of poisoning and injuries, those lacking sufficient levels of the active ingredients give consumers a false sense of security, and potentially attribute to the spread of COVID-19.
The FDA recently issued a series of recalls for products containing methanol, which is a wood alcohol often used to make fuel and antifreeze, but can cause side effects like headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, blindness, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death.
Other brands recently recalled include KLAR and DANVER Instant Hand Sanitizer, Britz, Born Basic Anti-Bac, AAA Cosmetica, Earth’s Amenities Instant Unscented Hand Sanitizer, Modesa Instant Hand Sanitizer Moisturizers and Vitamin E, Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer, Assured Aloe, and multiple versions of Blumen Instant Hand Sanitizers.
In recent weeks, experts say the risk of methanol poisoning from hand sanitizers has increased significantly due to the products being sold in bright colors, with scents similar to candy and some even packaged with glitter or fun characters on the bottle, which makes them particularly appealing to young children.
Health officials say while a child is able to lick or ingest a small amount of hand sanitizer from their hands without becoming sick, if they swallow even a dime-sized amount they will most likely experience alcohol poisoning that could result in confusion, vomiting, and drowsiness. In severe cases, they may suffer respiratory arrest, or even death.
The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend consumers always wash their hands with soap and water before using a topical hand sanitizer, as currently there is no scientific evidence it is a more effective means of killing germs over normal hand washing.
However, if topical hand sanitizers must be used they should contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to be effective in killing germs on the skins surface, the FDA advises.