Hand sanitizers warning: FDA's list of sanitizers with methanol grows

2022-06-01 02:36:00 By : Mr. Ken Wan

The Food and Drug Administration's list of hand sanitizers to avoid keeps growing.

As of Friday, the FDA's "do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products" now includes more than 150 varieties of hand sanitizer that should be avoided because they may contain methanol, a potentially fatal ingredient, contain other harmful ingredients or don't work effectively.

More of the hand sanitizers have been recalled with others being recommended for recall. Methanol is a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested.

The federal agency says that in most cases, methanol does not appear on the product label but that it is "not an acceptable ingredient in any drug, including hand sanitizer, even if methanol is listed as an ingredient on the product label."

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Methanol isn't the only reason why some hand sanitizers were added to the FDA's list.

"FDA continues to find issues with certain hand sanitizer products. FDA test results show certain hand sanitizers have concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, which are active ingredients in hand sanitizer products," the federal agency said. "The agency urges consumers not to use these subpotent products and has expanded its list to include subpotent hand sanitizers, in addition to hand sanitizers that are or may be contaminated with methanol."

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Some of the sanitizers on the list "have tested positive for 1-propanol contamination," which "is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizer products marketed in the United States and can be toxic and life-threatening when ingested."

The agency said that young children who ingest 1-propanol can experience central nervous system (CNS) depression, which can be deadly. Other symptoms include "confusion, decreased consciousness, and slowed pulse and breathing," as well as skin irritation or allergic reactions, the FDA said.

In a warning July 27, the FDA said it is "urging consumers not to use any hand sanitizer products from the particular manufacturers on the list even if the product or particular lot number are not listed since some manufacturers are recalling only certain – but not all – of their hand sanitizer products."

In June, the FDA warned consumers not to use nine kinds of hand sanitizers because they may contain methanol, and added to the list in early July, expanding it multiple times that month.

The FDA has said it has taken steps to prevent the products from entering the country by placing them on an import alert. Most of the products appear to have been produced in Mexico and, according to the alert, should be avoided because they pose a health risk.

Methanol is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide and alternative fuel source, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to it can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death.

Hand sanitizer has been a popular product to combat the coronavirus since February, and many new types have entered the market after shortages of brands including Purell.

“We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol,"  FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement. "Producing, importing and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated.”

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The FDA says the products are on its list for several reasons. They might contain methanol or may be labeled that they contain methanol. They also could have microbial contamination or be subpotent, which means “it has less than the required amount of ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or benzalkonium chloride.”

Others were put on the list because they were “purportedly made at the same facility as products that have been tested by FDA and found to contain methanol.”

Find more information, including the product code where available, on the FDA website.

The following products have been recalled or recommended for recall as of Aug. 14:

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko