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FDA warns of potentially toxic hand sanitizers


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about potentially toxic hand sanitizers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning for hand sanitizers containing a toxic ingredient that can potentially lead to poisoning or death if ingested.

Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a chemical found in antifreeze and fuel, which has been found in several hand sanitizers that the FDA has tested. When used as an active ingredient and absorbed through the skin or ingested, the substance can be toxic or life-threatening.

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The FDA reports that products labeled to contain ethanol (ethyl alcohol) are increasingly testing positive for methanol contamination. The agency has also received rising reports of adverse events related to methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer ingestion, which include hospitalizations, blindness and death.

“All Americans should practice good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Unfortunately, there are some companies taking advantage of the increased usage of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk by selling products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients. Consumers and health care providers should not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers,” says Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., commissioner of the FDA.

The FDA has issued a recall for these contaminated products and urges consumers and healthcare professionals to be aware of the ingredients in their hand sanitizers. If you think your hand sanitizer is contaminated, the agency recommends halting use and disposing of it in a hazardous waste container or as instructed by your local recycling and waste management center.

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Methanol poisoning can lead to blurred vision, headache, nausea, vomiting, permanent blindness, seizures, permanent nervous system damage and death, according to a press release from the agency.

“The FDA remains committed to working with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the safe supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This includes staying vigilant and continuing to take action when quality issues with hand sanitizers arise,” says Dr. Hahn.

More information and a full list of hand sanitizers recalled by the FDA can be found here.

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