The Food and Drug Administration is renewing its warnings for dangerous hand sanitizers this week as it continues to find products containing toxic methanol — a toxic alcohol that can cause systemic effects, blindness and death.
The agency’s growing “do not use list” of dangerous disinfectants now includes 87 products (see full list here). And with the numbers rising, the FDA also says there are increasing reports from state health departments and poison control centers about injuries and deaths.
“We remain deeply concerned about the potentially serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement.
Good hand hygiene, including the use of hand sanitizers when hand washing is not possible, is an important public health practice, especially during the pandemic. But, said Dr. Hahn, “Consumers should also be vigilant about what 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 hazardous hand sanitizers.”
Examples of some of the products on the list:
The agency reported that ongoing tests have found disinfectants containing methanol at levels ranging from 1 percent to 80 percent. No amount of methanol is acceptable, the agency notes. The alcohol, which is metabolized in the body to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, can cause systemic toxic effects if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Ingesting just two tablespoons can be fatal to small children, who may be tempted to drink disinfectants within reach. Smaller amounts can lead to permanent blindness.
States continue to report an increasing number of damages from the products, which can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent nervous system damage, heart disease and death. In one case, researchers linked a death to Blumen Hand Sanitizer, distributed by 4e North America and manufactured by 4E Global in Mexico. The company recently expanded a recall of its products, the FDA notes.
Warnings about toxic hand sanitizers first appeared in late June, when the FDA identified nine offending products, all from one manufacturer in Mexico. In an update earlier this month, the FDA said it had identified five additional brands of methanol-containing disinfectants.
The FDA has sent companies warning letters, urging product recalls and placed products on import warnings. For consumers, the agency recommends avoiding: all products from one of the manufacturers on the list. If you find yourself having any of these products, stop using it immediately, dispose of it in a hazardous waste container (don’t flush it down the drain), seek immediate medical attention if necessary, and report the matter to the FDA .