The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a first-of-its-kind warning Monday to try to block imports of toxic hand sanitizers from Mexico that have flooded the market during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last June, the regulatory agency began issuing warnings and warnings to consumers about dangerous and counterfeit hand sanitizers, many of which are made in Mexico. Since then, the FDA has issued warnings for 226 products. An FDA investigation conducted between April and December found that 84 percent of products tested from Mexico did not comply with FDA regulations.
Many of the products in question are labeled as containing safe alcohols, but in fact contain methanol, an extremely toxic form of alcohol associated with improperly distilled spirits that can cause blindness and even death. The FDA discovered some other products that contain another toxic ingredient, 1-propanol, while others simply contain insufficient amounts of safe alcohols for sanitation. (Safe alcohols for hand sanitizers include ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, in concentrations greater than 60 percent or isopropyl alcohol in concentrations greater than 70 percent.)
In addition to spotting the dangerous products, the agency also said it was starting to get reports of methanol poisonings from disinfectants, which in some cases led to blindness, cardiac effects, central nervous system effects, hospitalizations and deaths in adults and children. The agency notes that exposure to methanol can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent nervous system damage, or death. While the products pose risks to anyone using the disinfectants properly – they can be absorbed through the skin – the products are most dangerous for small children who drink them out of curiosity or adults who drink them as an alcohol substitute.
The import alert issued Monday will allow the agency to detain any suspicious incoming products at the border so the regulatory agency can give them a more thorough safety assessment. In announcing the warning, the FDA noted that it marks the first time in the agency’s history that it has issued a nationwide import warning for a category of drugs.
“Consumer use of hand sanitizers has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic…and the availability of poor-quality products containing dangerous and unacceptable ingredients will not be tolerated,” said Judy McMeekin, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. , in the announcement.
Below is a selection of some of the offending products and the full list can be found here. If you find yourself with any of the products on the list, stop using it immediately. If you are concerned about possible exposure to toxic substances, contact your poison control center and/or seek immediate medical attention. Toxic hand sanitizers should not be flushed or thrown down the drain; instead, they should be disposed of in an appropriate hazardous waste container.