CDC: People across the US are drinking hand sanitizer, causing deaths and blindness

insider@insider.com (Julia Naftulin)
·2 mins read
medical coronavirus virus flu sick cold hygiene hand sanitizer clorox hands wash cox 6
medical coronavirus virus flu sick cold hygiene hand sanitizer clorox hands wash cox 6

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  • The CDC is urging Americans to stop drinking methanol-containing hand sanitizers.

  • 15 people who ingested the product were hospitalized. Four of them died and three had permanent vision loss.

  • Methanol is a type of alcohol that can be deadly if ingested or absorbed through the skin. In the US, any product that contains more than 4% methanol must be labeled as "poison."

  • Previously, the FDA flagged dozens of hand sanitizers that contained methanol. Some of them didn't list the toxic ingredient on their packaging.

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The CDC is calling on Americans not to drink potentially deadly hand sanitizers. 

The agency released details of 15 recent cases, including four people who died, three who lost vision, and eight others who were hospitalized after ingesting the product.

Each of them had consumed versions of hand sanitizer that contained methanol, a type of alcohol, between May 1 and June 30 in New Mexico and Arizona, according to the CDC report released Wednesday. According to an FDA spokesperson, eight people have died from ingesting methanol-containing hand sanitizers.

It comes on the heels of the FDA's latest alert to consumers about hand sanitizers to avoid, including a warning against the potentially deadly ingredient methanol.

Methanol can be deadly if ingested or absorbed into the skin

As hand sanitizer production increased during the pandemic, more companies pivoted to producing the high-demand product.

That's why the FDA believes some producers starting swapping in methanol, another type of alcohol, and an ingredient used to produce antifreeze and fuel. 

Unlike ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, methanol can be deadly when inhaled or absorbed into the bloodstream through your skin. In the United States, any product that contains more than 4% methanol must be labeled as "poison."

Since June 19, the FDA has flagged dozens of hand sanitizers that have traces of methanol, or were made in a facility with other methanol-containing sanitizers. In some cases, methanol wasn't a listed ingredient.

In addition to methanol-containing products, the FDA is warning of ones that don't have enough active germ-killing ingredients to be effective.

The FDA said any consumers who come across a suspicious product, including hand sanitizer, should report it to their MedWatch program.

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