9 hand sanitizers may contain toxic methanol, FDA warns

Sara G. Miller

The Food and Drug Administration has warned that several types of hand sanitizer made in Mexico may contain methanol, a type of alcohol that can be toxic when applied to the skin or ingested.

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The FDA highlighted nine products from the Mexican manufacturer Eskbiochem SA de CV, though the agency did not say where in the U.S. the products were sold. The products are:

  • All-Clean Hand Sanitizer

  • Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer

  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol

  • Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer

  • The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer

  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol

  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol

  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol

  • Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer

When FDA researchers tested two of the products, Lavar Gel and ClearCare No Germ, they detected methanol, the agency said in a statement on Friday. They noted, however, that they were not aware of any reports of adverse reactions related to the products.

There is no safe level of methanol in hand sanitizer. It can cause skin irritation, and if ingested, lead to a range of problems including headache, dizziness, blurred vision, kidney failure, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Methanol-containing products can be harmful when used on the hands, but they're especially dangerous when ingested. Young children who accidentally swallow the product and adolescents or adults who drink it as an alcohol substitute face the greatest risk.

An April study, from researchers at the CDC, found that calls to U.S. poison control centers related to cleaning products went up in the early days of the pandemic. Many calls involved children under 5, including one case of a preschool-age child who drank from a bottle of hand sanitizer, and fell and hit her head.

The FDA is advising any consumers who purchased the warned-about products to dispose of them in hazardous waste containers. The products should not be flushed or poured down the drain.

If soap and water for hand-washing is not available, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol.

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