FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Toxic Hand Sanitizers Due to Presence of Methanol

FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Toxic Hand Sanitizers Due to Presence of Methanol
A person uses hand sanitizer in a file photograph. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)
Paula Liu
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public in an updated statement to avoid buying and using certain brands of hand sanitizer due to the presence of methanol within the products.

With limited quantities of hand sanitizers from brands such as Purell, various other types of hand sanitizers—both domestic and imported—have come on to the market. Although these products are packaged and labeled as containing ethanol, these products have tested positive for methanol.

Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a type of substance that is toxic if it is absorbed through the skin. If it is ingested, it could be life-threatening.

The FDA listed brands and products that have tested positive for methanol, with a total of 77 separate products listed. The most recent discovery of methanol-positive hand sanitizer came from a brand that imports products from Mexico, Liq-E SA de CV.

“The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations, and death,” the statement said.

The FDA also addressed the severity of the risk to each age group, stating that although everyone who uses methanol-tainted hand sanitizers could be at risk, the people who are most at risk are small children who accidentally ingest the product and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol substitute.

The public should beware of products that are marketed at children, as there is a higher chance for children to ingest them. Only a small amount of hand sanitizer could be enough to fatally harm a child.

In addition, the FDA indicated that individuals should seek medical help if they have been in contact with hand sanitizer that has tested positive for methanol and are experiencing symptoms, according to the statement.

According to the FDA symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, or death.

The FDA strongly advised individuals not to drink hand sanitizers for any reason, regardless of whether to not they have tested positive for methanol. The agency also cautioned the public about misleading packaging from hand sanitizer products, such as false claims or FDA-approved logos, because there is no such thing as an FDA-approved hand sanitizer.