FDA expands list of potentially toxic hand sanitizers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to warn consumers and health care professionals not to use certain alcohol-based hand sanitizers due to the dangerous presence of methanol, or wood alcohol — a substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin as well as life-threatening when ingested.

The FDA is working with manufacturers to recall products and is encouraging retailers to remove products from store shelves and online marketplaces.

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The FDA first warned about some of the methanol-containing hand sanitizers being sold in retail stores and online in June. The agency issued a further warning earlier this month about an increasing number of adverse events, including blindness, cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system, and hospitalizations and death, primarily reported to poison control centers and state departments of health. The agency continues to see these figures rise.

The agency has posted a do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products, which is being updated regularly, at www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol. However, in most cases, methanol does not appear on the product label. However, methanol is not an acceptable ingredient in any drug, including hand sanitizer, even if methanol is listed as an ingredient on the product label. The FDA’s ongoing testing has found methanol contamination in hand sanitizer products ranging from 1% to 80%.

If consumers have a match to a product on the list, the FDA urges consumers to immediately stop using and dispose of the hand sanitizer.

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One death has been reported to date. The fatality was associated with Blumen Hand Sanitizer, distributed by 4e North America and manufactured by 4E Global in Mexico, which recently expanded its recall to include additional lots of its hand sanitizer products.

Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of the toxic effects of methanol poisoning.

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