Hand Sanitizers to Avoid That Do Not Protect From Coronavirus
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public to avoid buying hand sanitizer that contains methanol, a type of wood alcohol used to create fuel and antifreeze. Methanol is toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested.
Hand-sanitizing products have flooded the U.S. market after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stressed the importance of handwashing for 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, hand sanitizers have been in demand, but in short supply. So, unknown brands of hand sanitizers have replaced well-known brands that quickly sold out of stores. Most of the brands under scrutiny were manufactured in and imported from Mexico.
The FDA’s website lists 87 of the most dangerous hand sanitizers. Some have caused hospitalizations and death. Manufacturers have recalled some, but not all, of the hand sanitizers.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a July 2 statement that some companies are “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.”
The FDA’s first warning over hand sanitizers containing methanol came in June when the agency alerted the public about nine products manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico. The products included:
- All-Clean Hand Sanitizer
- Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
- Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer
- The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer
- Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer
Samples of Lavar Gel and CleanCare NoGerm were tested, according to the FDA. Test results showed Lavar Gel contained 81 percent methanol and no ethyl alcohol, and CleanCare NoGerm contained 28 percent methanol.
FDA Recommends Recall of Dangerous Products
The FDA’s list started growing in early July after more hand sanitizers imported from Mexico were tested and found to contain methanol. Some products recommended for recall were made in the same facility where other tainted hand-sanitizers were manufactured.
By mid-July, the FDA set up an import alert to stop hand-sanitizing products from Mexico from entering the United States. One of the companies with products the FDA recommended recalling and placing on the import alert list was Tropicosmeticos SA de CV which made:
- Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%
- Be Safe Hand Sanitizer
- Cleaner Hand Sanitizer Rinse-Free 70%
- Handzer Hand Sanitizer Rinse-Free
- Kleanz Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Advanced
- Wave Hand Sanitizer Gel
As a result of the complaints, some companies voluntarily recalled their products, while other manufacturers recalled only certain hand sanitizers. Companies that do not recall all of their products are placing consumers at risk of methanol poisoning, the FDA says.
The 4E Global company, in Mexico, expanded its recall after a death was associated with its Blumen Hand Sanitizer, according to the FDA. Among the products 4E Global voluntarily recalled included:
- Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer
- Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer with 70% Alcohol
- Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear Ethyl Alcohol 70%
- Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear
- Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer
- Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Aloe
Wholesalers, including BJ’s Wholesale Club, Walmart, and Costco, removed the Blumen hand sanitizer from their shelves.
Transliquid Technologies, which was also included in the FDA’s safety alert, voluntarily recalled all of its Mystic Shield Protection hand sanitizers sold in California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Texas. The company independently tested the product and found the presence of methanol.
ITECH 361 followed suit after discovering the potential presence of methanol in its product. Although ITECH 361 had not received any reports of adverse events related to its product, the company voluntarily recalled 18,940 bottles of its All Clean Hand Sanitizer, Moisturizer and Disinfectant sold in one-liter bottles.
Reports Related to Poisoning From Hand Sanitizers Increase
The FDA continues to receive reports of serious health conditions associated with hand sanitizers containing wood alcohol. According to the agency, substantial methanol exposure can cause health conditions, such as:
- Blurred vision
- Cardiac effects
- Permanent damage to the central nervous system
The National Poison Data System (NPDS) joined the FDA in warning the public, especially parents of young children, about the dangers of methanol poisoning from hand sanitizers. Children, especially toddlers, might drink hand sanitizer because of its pleasant smell or brightly colored bottles.
From January 1, 2020, to July 26, 2020, there were 19,838 hand sanitizer exposure cases reported to the 55 Poison Control Centers throughout the United States, according to figures from the NPDS. This is a 65 percent increase compared to the same time last year. Nearly 12,000 of those cases involved children under 5 years old.
Children are more likely to fall ill from a topically applied poison like methanol since youngsters have a much higher surface area to weight ratio, the NPDS said in a news statement involving hand sanitizers. Depending on the concentration of the product and amount ingested, some individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and slurred speech from the toxic substance.
CDC Recommendations for Using Hand Sanitizer
- Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, according to the CDC. But when soap and water aren’t available, the CDC recommends.
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Supervising young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing alcohol.
- Putting enough sanitizer on your hands to cover all surfaces.
- Rubbing your hands together until they feel dry, which should take about 20 seconds.
The FDA’s full list of “Do Not Use” hand sanitizers is available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol