FDA expands list of potentially deadly hand sanitizers

Author: Maggie Fox, CNN
Published: Updated:
Credit: via CBS News.

The US Food and Drug Administration has expanded its list of potentially deadly hand sanitizer products, warning a Mexican-based company about selling products that contain methanol, a dangerous form of alcohol that can poison people through their skin.

Many new companies have been selling hand sanitizer products because of the increased demand fueled by coronavirus fears, and shortages of the usual mainstream products. But the FDA said on Monday that many companies are using unsafe alcohols in their products, and is warning people to not use them.

“Manufacturers’ failure to immediately recall all potentially affected products is placing consumers in danger of methanol poisoning,” the FDA said in a statement.

“A warning letter has been issued to Eskbiochem S.A. de C.V. for distributing product with undeclared methanol, unapproved claims –including incorrectly stating FDA approvalā€”and improper manufacturing practices,” the agency added.

“Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers 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 sanitizer products,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

“We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol. Producing, importing and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated. The FDA will take additional action as necessary and will continue to provide the latest information on this issue for the health and safety of consumers.”

Earlier this month, the FDA said at least four people died in New Mexico after reportedly drinking hand sanitizer products. The isopropyl alcohol usually used in hand sanitizer is not as toxic as methanol but the FDA doesn’t recommend eating or drinking hand sanitizer.

“Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death,” the FDA says.

“Although people using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning,” it added.

The FDA has warned against the use of more than 75 different hand sanitizer products because they contain methanol.

“In most cases, methanol does not appear on the product label. However, methanol is not an acceptable ingredient in any drug, including hand sanitizer, even if methanol is listed as an ingredient on the product label,” the FDA said.

“Importantly, the FDA is urging consumers not to use any hand sanitizer products from the particular manufacturers on the list even if the product or particular lot number are not listed since some manufacturers are recalling only certain — but not all — of their hand sanitizer products.”

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