This week, the Food and Drug Administration is renewing its warning about dangerous hand sanitizers as it continues to find products that contain toxic methanol, a toxic alcohol that can cause systemic exposure, blindness and death.
The growing “non-use list”; of hazardous disinfectants currently includes 87 products. As the FDA also reports, the FDA also reports that reports from government health departments and poison control centers on injuries and deaths are growing.
“We remain extremely concerned about the possible serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement.
Good hand hygiene, which includes the use of hand sanitizers when hand washing is not possible, is an important health practice, especially in the context of a pandemic. But, said Dr. Gan, “consumers also need to be vigilant about what disinfectants they use, and for their health and safety, we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizers.”
The agency said that during its testing, it was found that disinfectants contain methanol in levels from 1 to 80 percent. No amount of methanol is acceptable, the agency said. Alcohol, which is metabolized to formaldehyde and then to formic acid in the body, can cause systemic toxic effects if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Ingestion of just two tablespoons can be fatal for young children, who may be tempted to drink disinfectants that are not available. Smaller amounts can lead to permanent blindness.
States continue to report an increasing number of reports of harm from foods that can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, constant blindness, convulsions, coma, permanent nervous system damage, heart attack, and death. In one case, investigators linked the death to a Blumen Hand Sanitizer distributed by 4E North America and manufactured by 4E Global in Mexico. The company recently expanded the recall of its products, according to the FDA.
Warnings about toxic hand sanitizer first appeared in late June, when the FDA identified nine criminal products from one manufacturer in Mexico. In updates earlier this month, the FDA said it had identified five additional brands of disinfectants containing methanol.
The FDA sent warning letters to companies, insisted on recalls, and placed goods on import notifications. The agency recommends consumers to avoid all products of any of the manufacturers on the list. If you find that you have one of these products, stop using it immediately, dispose of it in a hazardous waste container (do not flush it down the drain), seek medical attention immediately if necessary, and notify the FDA.