The FDA has recalled hand sanitizers with another toxic ingredient: What you need to know about 1-propanol

The recalled hand sanitizer list from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is growing. In June, the FDA warned consumers against using hand sanitizer that contains the toxic ingredient methanol. Now the agency says there’s another toxin showing up in hand sanitizers that is causing concern.

It’s called 1-propanol, and the FDA on Wednesday said in a new warning that the ingredient can be “toxic and life-threatening when ingested.” The biggest concern, the FDA says, is with young children accidentally ingesting the toxin or adults or teens who drink it as an alcohol substitute.

The FDA says it will continue to monitor hand sanitizers sold in the U.S. for potentially harmful ingredients. (Getty Images)
The FDA says it will continue to monitor hand sanitizers sold in the U.S. for potentially harmful ingredients. (Getty Images)

While 1-propanol is an alcohol similar to isopropanol, it is different enough to be dangerous, Jamie K. Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life. “It's mainly used as an industrial solvent,” she says.

The FDA has now expanded its list of hand sanitizers consumers should not use to include products that are or might be contaminated with 1-propanol.

Ingesting 1-propanol can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression, which can lead to death, the FDA says, noting that animal studies indicate the CNS depressant effects of 1-propanol are two to four times as potent as ethanol alcohol.

According to the FDA, symptoms of 1-propanol exposure can include:

  • Confusion

  • Decreased consciousness

  • Slowed pulse and breathing

People can also experience skin or eye irritation after exposure or, in rare cases, have an allergic skin reaction. People who have been exposed to hand sanitizer that contains 1-propanol and are experiencing symptoms should “seek immediate care,” the FDA says.

The FDA’s list of hand sanitizers to avoid now contains more than 100 products.

If you have a hand sanitizer that is on the do-not-use list, the FDA recommends that you immediately stop using it and dispose of it, ideally in a hazardous waste container. (You can also contact your local waste management and recycling center for more information.) The FDA warns against flushing the sanitizer or pouring it down the drain.

The FDA says it will continue to monitor hand sanitizers sold in the U.S. and will add more to its list to avoid, if needed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water “whenever possible” to reduce the amount of germs and contamination on your hands. However, the CDC says that if soap and water aren’t available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol can help.

People are understandably nervous about buying hand sanitizer right now. “I would just make sure that, when you’re buying hand sanitizer, you look at the name,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. He recommends sticking with name brands you know and checking a sanitizer you’re interested in buying against the FDA’s list, just to be safe. Alan agrees. “Buying from trusted companies is a good way to go,” she says.

It can be tricky these days to find hand sanitizers made by companies that are known in the field, like Purell and Germ-X, but many other reputable companies like Suave, Paul Mitchell and PreventMD are now making hand sanitizers. Adalja says you should feel confident in trusting those products too. “Name-brand manufacturers have a reputation to uphold, so they’re going to be more likely to produce a quality product,” he says.

Adalja admits that it’s “difficult” to shop for hand sanitizer right now, though. “The best you can do is look at known consumer sites, check the FDA’s list and stick with brands that you’ve known,” he says.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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