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The FDA warns that 55 hand sanitizer brands are toxic and potentially deadly

Published Jul 11th, 2020 10:33AM EDT
Hand Sanitizer
Image: Maridav/Shutterstock

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  • The FDA advises that 55 hand sanitizer brands contain methanol, also known as wood alcohol.
  • Methanol is toxic and can cause severe complications when absorbed, including permanent blindness.
  • When buying hand sanitizer, make sure that the product has at least 60% ethyl alcohol.

When the coronavirus pandemic started to sweep the country back in mid-March, there was a run on basic items like paper towels and toilet paper. For reasons that even defied explanation at the time, people started behaving as if a zombie apocalypse was upon us and that basic supplies would soon be in short supply. It was essentially a textbook definition of a misguided panic.

One item that was justifiably in short supply, however, was hand sanitizer. Especially with health agencies and prominent health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci stressing the importance of washing one’s hands multiple times a day, people started hoarding hand sanitizer bottles. In some areas, hand sanitizer was almost impossible to find for weeks on end.

These days, the supply of hand sanitizer has improved drastically. Still, not all hand sanitizers are created equal and the FDA recently listed dozens of brands that can actually be dangerous to individuals due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), a substance that can be toxic to humans when absorbed through the skin.

Absorbing a large quantity of methanol through the skin can cause any number of serious health issues, including permanent blindness, seizures, and vomiting. There have even been recent instances where individuals using hand sanitizers with methanol have died.

The FDA notes:

Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.

Earlier this week, the FDA identified five hand sanitizer brands that contain Methanol, a list that includes the following:

  • Grupo Insoma’s Hand Sanitizer Gel Unscented, 70% alcohol
  • Transliquid Technologies’ Mystic Shield Protection Hand Sanitizer
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution Hand Sanitizer
  • Tropicosmeticos’ Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%

If you have any of the above in your possession, you’d be well-advised to throw them away immediately. And if you’ve used any of the above, the FDA suggests you seek medical attention.

The FDA first warned of hand sanitizer with methanol in late June, and the list of offending products has steadily grown since then. As it stands now, other hand sanitizer brands to steer clear of include the following products from Eskbiochem:

  • All-Clean Hand Sanitizer
  • Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
  • Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer
  • The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
  • Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer

And just this week, the FDA added more than two dozen additional hand sanitizer brands to avoid. Nearly all of the brands are manufactured in Mexico, which should ideally make them easy to identify. Cumulatively, the FDA found issues with 55 hand sanitizer brands.

Some of the new additions to the FDA’s list include Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer, Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer, Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer, and Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare. A full list of offending products can be viewed here on the FDA website.

If you want to steer clear of hand sanitizers altogether, that’s certainly an option. Per FDA guidelines, individuals can just as easily wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds at a time. And if you need hand sanitizer for occasions when washing your hands isn’t an option, make sure to get an alcohol-based product with at least 60% ethyl alcohol.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.