Dozens of hand sanitizers labeled as containing ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) contain undeclared methanol, a toxic ingredient that has can cause serious adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautioned in a safety communication.
In June, the FDA warned consumers not to use hand sanitizers manufactured in Mexico that contained methanol because of its toxic effects. Consumers were also advised to seek immediate medical treatment to reverse the potential effects of methanol poisoning if they had used hand sanitizers containing methanol.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning include nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, and death. People who use methanol on their hands are at risk, but children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink them as an alcohol substitute are at greater risk of methanol poisoning.
The FDA has a list of tested and recalled hand sanitizers that it is continually updating as more dangerous products are discovered. Some of the more recent recalls include:
- Born Basic ANTI-BAC HAND SANITIZER
- Scent Theory KEEP CLEAN Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer
- Scent Theory KEEP IT CLEAN Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer
- Lux Eoi Hand Sanitizing Gel
- Shine and Clean Hand Sanitizer Gel
- Optimus Instant Hand Sanitizer
The FDA recommends consumers wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose. If soap is not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol).