FDA warns consumers of toxic hand sanitizers

By Diana Fedinec
July 31, 2020

The increased sale of hand sanitizers during the COVID-19 pandemic has public health officials both pleased and worried. While more people are following the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention’s recommendations to use hand sanitizers to slow the spread of the virus, some companies are manufacturing hand sanitizer products that contain toxic ingredients.

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration released a warning to consumers about dangerous alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol.  According to the FDA, methanol is a wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be life-threatening when ingested.  Furthermore, some hand sanitizers that are labeled to contain ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) have tested positive for methanol contamination. The FDA states that “methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects.”

Consumers who are exposed to methanol poisoning can experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death. The FDA is reminding everyone that proper and frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the best defenses against COVID-19.  In lieu of soap and water, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol (also referred to as ethyl alcohol).

For the FDA’s current list of hand sanitizers that contain methanol, click on FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol.

To report adverse effects experienced with the use of hand sanitizers, contact the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reportingprogram.

For more information and resources about COVID-19, visit the College’s Coronavirus site at http://www.southwest.tn.edu/coronavirus/

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