The Food and Drug Administration is warning retailers and consumers to avoid dozens of hand sanitizer brands made in Mexico due to the dangerous presence of methanol, or wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin as well as life-threatening when ingested.
The demand for hand disinfectant products has increased exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic, as health experts are urging people to wash their hands to prevent the risk of infection.
The FDA has identified at least 77 hand sanitizing products that should be avoided. The agency is proactively working with manufacturers to recall products and is encouraging retailers to remove products from store shelves and online marketplaces.
“We remain extremely concerned about the potentially serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol. Producing, importing, and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated. The FDA will take additional action as necessary and will continue to provide the latest information on this issue for the health and safety of consumers,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.
The agency has posted a do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products, which is being updated regularly. In most cases, methanol does not appear on the product label. According to regulators, 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%.
At least seven people have died, and dozens have been hospitalized in Arizona and New Mexico after ingesting hand sanitizer containing methanol, the Washington Post reported.
According to the newspaper, the recalled products are manufactured by various companies, all in Mexico, and have been carried by such retailers as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, and Walmart.
The FDA is strongly urging distributors and retailers to stop distributing and selling hand sanitizers manufactured by the firms on the list immediately, even if the particular product is not included in a recall, due to the risk of methanol poisoning.
Health experts said methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.