Update 7/28/20: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued another warning Monday against using certain hand sanitizers that may contain methanol or wood alcohol, a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested. The list of recalled sanitizers has grown to 87 which should be avoided since they may contain these toxic ingredients. See the updated recall list here.
With the COVID-19 pandemic here for the foreseeable future, we’re all using more hand sanitizer than ever before. As a result, many companies are rushing to get hand sanitizers to store shelves. With this, the FDA has issued a hand sanitizer recall of 75 products that contain potentially toxic ingredients.
The FDA’s testing found that these 75 products were labeled as containing ethanol, but actually contain methanol, a substance which can be toxic when absorbed into the skin or ingested. The CDC recommends consumers use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) but methanol (often called wood alcohol) is often used to create fuel, solvents and antifreeze and is often volatile and flammable–not what you want to be slathering on your hands after a trip to the grocery store.
If you’ve used any of these products and are experiencing nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision or seizures, you should seek immediate medical treatment. According to the FDA anyone who uses them is at risk, but especially young children who may accidentally ingest these products.
The FDA is particularly concerned with the following quality issues when investigating hand sanitizers:
- The dangers of drinking any hand sanitizer under any conditions. While hand sanitizers with possible methanol contamination are more life-threatening than those that are not contaminated, FDA urges consumers not to drink any of these products.
- Certain hand sanitizers that may not contain a sufficient amount of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.
- Hand sanitizers that are sold or offered for sale with false and misleading, unproven claims that they can prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, including claims that they can provide prolonged protection (e.g., for up to 24-hours).
- Products that are fraudulently marketed as “FDA-approved” since there are no hand sanitizers approved by FDA.
- Products packaged to appear as drinks, candy or liquor bottles, as well as products marketed as drinks or cocktails because their appearance could result in accidental ingestion or encourage ingestion. Children are particularly at risk with these products since ingesting only a small amount of hand sanitizer may be lethal in a young child.