Watch out for toxic methanol-based hand sanitizer

FDA reported it found or suspects the ingredient is in 17 products manufactured by Mexican-based companies

The Ohio Department of Health issued a warning Tuesday evening about toxic, methanol-based hand sanitizers that can poison consumers, or lead to blindness or death if swallowed.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but have tested positive for methanol contamination. Most commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs contain either ethanol or isopropanol as active ingredients. Methanol (or wood alcohol) is not an acceptable ingredient, the health department stated.

Repeated use of methanol-containing hand sanitizer on the skin may result in methanol poisoning. However, the highest risk is to people who swallow the products. This could include young children who accidentally swallow the sanitizer and adolescents or adults who intentionally swallow it as an alcohol substitute.

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The effects of methanol and ethanol poisoning are similar — headache, blurred vision or blindness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, decreased alertness — but methanol poisoning may result in severe buildup of acid in the body or death.

The FDA has found the ingredient or suspects it may be present in 17 products manufactured by Mexican-based companies Eskbiochem SA de CV; AAA Cosmetica; Grupo Insoma, S.A.P.I de CV; Soluciones Cosmeticas SA de CV; Transliquid Technologies; and Tropicosmeticos SA de CV. A full list of product names, can be found here. The agency is working with manufacturers and distributors on a voluntary recall of these products.

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Consumers should:

  • Check to see if they have any hand sanitizers on the list. If so, stop using it and dispose of it in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour it down the drain.
  • Seek immediate medical attention and call the National Poison Control Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 if they have swallowed hand sanitizer or are experiencing symptoms from repeated use of one of the listed products.
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and supervise use.

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