The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory about serious health effects of hand sanitizers that have tested positive for methanol (wood alcohol), which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested.
The advisory follows a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning about hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol), but are contaminated with methanol.
In addition, CDC said seven patients in New Mexico who purportedly drank alcohol-based hand sanitizer had significant blood methanol concentrations. Four died, one critically ill patient recovered with permanent vision loss, and outcomes are pending on the remaining two critically ill patients, CDC said.
FDA had advised consumers in June to not use any hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol.
The latest warning expands the list of products that are being recalled or should not be used. See the full list on the FDA website.
“Clinicians should be highly suspicious of methanol poisoning when a patient presents with a history of (alcohol-based hand sanitizer) ingestion, compatible signs and symptoms, and laboratory findings,” the CDC advisory says.
Physicians and other public health officials should advise the public to seek immediate medical attention and contact their poison center – (800) 222-1222 – for advice if they have swallowed an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or are experiencing symptoms from repeated use of products that are on the FDA recall list, CDC also said.
FDA also is concerned with several quality issues with hand sanitizers, including:
- Products with an insufficient amount of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol;
- Products with false and misleading, unproven claims of preventing the spread of viruses such as COVID-19;
- Products fraudulently marketed as “FDA-approved.” No hand sanitizers are approved by FDA; and
- Products packaged to appear as drinks, candy, or liquor bottles, as well as products marketed as drinks or cocktails.
Throughout the pandemic, the Texas Medical Association has urged physicians to repeatedly remind patients to practice good hand hygiene, to wear a mask, and to maintain at least 6 feet of space between people.
Find more information, tools, and resources on the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center, which is updated regularly.