Rubbing Alcohol Recall Issued As Methanol Problems Expand Beyond Hand Sanitizer

Federal health officials have announced a recall of certain rubbing alcohol products sold nationwide, after determining the products may contain methanol, which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or potentially life threatening if ingested.

The Soho Fresh rubbing alcohol recall was posted by the FDA on January 4, after routine sampling confirmed the presence of methanol, which has also resulted in the recall for similar hand sanitizing products in recent months.

As the demand for hand sanitizer has increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an influx of methanol-containing products entered the U.S. market last year, even though the chemical is not being approved for use in topical sanitary products since it carries a risk of harmful side effects.

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Methanol is a wood alcohol often used to make fuel and antifreeze, but including it in topical sanitary products can cause side effects such as headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, blindness, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death.

This latest recall impacts Soho Fresh 70% Rubbing Alcohol products packaged in 33.81 oz. clear plastic bottles and marked with lot 200528303 and UPC 7502268987367. The products were manufactured by Essaar Inc. of Passaic, New Jersey and were distributed nationwide to retail stores.

Essaar announced consumers should stop using the recalled products immediately and place them out of reach from children until the recalled bottles can be properly discarded or returned to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Customers with additional questions are being asked to contact Essaar Inc. at 201-647-7606 or email the company at essaarinc@yahoo.com.

Although no injuries or hospitalizations have been reported in relation to the recall, FDA officials warn using the products can put consumers at risk, including young children who could accidently ingest these products, and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol substitute.

In August 2020, the FDA became aware of 15 reports of methanol poisonings among adults in Arizona and New Mexico, resulting in at least four deaths and three cases of vision impairment.

Although methanol poisoning typically only last eight to 24 hours, injuries can include an accumulation of acid in the blood, called metabolic acidosis, and can set in fast and cause a serious risk of permanent blindness or death.

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the FDA has been closely monitoring the influx of unapproved products circulating through U.S. retailers and has issued over 100 hand sanitizer recalls to date for either containing methanol or having lower than disclosed levels of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which give consumers a false sense of security that the products have killed germs.

The methanol contamination issue has become so widespread that the FDA announced a temporary hand sanitizer testing guidance on August 7, 2020, outlining a series or required procedures for manufacturers to test for potentially harmful methanol ingredients

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.

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