INDIANAPOLIS — The Food and Drug Administration is again warning about hand sanitizer that can be dangerous or even deadly.
The federal agency says some hand sanitizers contain methanol, a form of alcohol made from wood that is toxic and can cause extremely serious health problems.
At least eight deaths have been reported so far, according to the FDA, and the list of toxic hand sanitizers added to the agency’s recall list is growing.
“More and more are being discovered each day as we continue our testing,” FDA spokesman Jeremy Kahn told 13News. “It’s hard because you can’t see it and you really can’t smell it. The methanol is not declared on the label.”
Identifying safe vs toxic
So how can you tell which hand sanitizer is safe and which is toxic?
Start by looking at the label to determine where the hand sanitizer was made. Of the 87 hand sanitizers now recalled by the FDA for containing methanol, 86 of them were produced in Mexico. (The other one was produced by a distillery in Tennessee and states on the label that it contains methanol.)
That is not to say ALL hand sanitizers made in Mexico should be avoided. A popular brand of hand sanitizer now available at Home Depot and Walmart is not on the FDA’s list of recalled products. But the FDA says customers who have hand sanitizer made in Mexico should research their product further.
“If you look at the list of recalled products, almost all of them are from Mexico, so if yours is made there, that’s an immediate trigger and alert,” Kahn said. “At that point, you need to look at the specifics on the bottle.”
The FDA suggests consumers who are concerned about their hand sanitizer look for three important identifiers: the product’s name, its manufacturer and its national drug code number. All should be listed on the label. That information can then be cross referenced with the FDA’s list of recalled hand sanitizers to determine if a product has been recalled due to methanol.
If any of the identifiers match, the FDA says consumers should get rid of the hand sanitizer immediately (at a hazardous waste site, not down the drain).
Methanol can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision and blindness, seizures, coma or death. The FDA told 13News the eight deaths recorded so far have all resulted from individuals drinking the hand sanitizer. The fatalities include both children who accidentally drank the liquid and adults who intentionally ingested it, according to Kahn.
Medical journals suggest methanol can also cause significant health problems when applied to the skin or if its fumes are inhaled.
If you believe you have experienced a health problem due to toxic hand sanitizer, the FDA encourages you to report the incident to its Adverse Event Reporting System.
The CDC says hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol are effective in helping to kill germs and control the spread of the coronavirus.