(WPRI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expanding its list of hand sanitizers containing a type of alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, and life-threatening when ingested.
The FDA is warning its seen seen a “sharp increase” in hand sanitizer products labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol), but that have tested positive for methanol contamination.
The agency first warned about at least nine products in June, but has expanded the list to include at least 75 products as of this week. The FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing.
With some of the trusted brands consumers know potentially out of stock, due to high demand from the pandemic, paying close attention to labels is a way to protect yourself.
Does it contain ethanol?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol. It’s also referred to as ethyl alcohol.
The problem is, the FDA some of the products on its warning list claim to contain ethanol, but tested positive for methanol contamination. This was discovered due to FDA testing, a recall from the manufacturer or distributor, or products being made at the same facility as products tested by the FDA and found to contain methanol.
Does the label make a claim too good to be true?
The FDA warns hand sanitizers sold or offered for sale with false and misleading, unproven claims that they can prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, including claims that they can provide prolonged protection (e.g., for up to 24-hours).
Additionally, look out for products claiming to be “FDA-approved.” According to the FDA, there are no hand sanitizers approved by the agency.
Does the package look unusual?
Not all hand sanitizers are packaged traditionally. The FDA warns products packaged to appear as drinks, candy or liquor bottles, or marketed as drinks or cocktails because their appearance could result in accidental ingestion or encourage ingestion. Children are particularly at risk with these products since ingesting only a small amount of hand sanitizer may be lethal in a young child.
How to know if you’ve been exposed to methanol
The agency says its aware of both adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol, which has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.
Substantial methanol exposure can also result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma or permanent damage to the nervous system.
If you think you’ve been exposed, the FDA says you should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.