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US warns against Mexican sanitizer gel containing methanol

Hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer (AP)

MEXICO CITY – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about a Mexican-made hand sanitizer gel that it said is dangerous because it contains large amounts of poisonous methanol, or wood alcohol.

The FDA said the methanol “can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested,” and recommended consumers dispose of nine brands of gel sanitizers made by Eskbiochem SA de CV.

The FDA said one of the brands contained 81% methanol and no ethyl alcohol, which is the drinkable kind.

Late last week the FDA said it had contacted Eskbiochem “to recommend the company remove its hand sanitizer products from the market due to the risks associated with methanol poisoning,” but the firm hadn’t done so. The company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The brands include All-Clean Hand Sanitizer, CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer and CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer.

“Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk,” the FDA said young children who accidentally ingest it or adult who drink it as an ethyl alcohol substitute are also at risk.

Methanol is a poisonous cousin of the ethyl alcohol in normal liquors and cannot be smelled or tasted in drinks. It causes organ and brain damage and can be fatal, and its symptoms include chest pain, nausea, hyperventilation, blindness and even coma.

Methanol poisoning from adulterated liquor has cost more than a hundred lives in Mexico since the coronavirus pandemic began. As part of coronavirus lockdowns, many towns banned legitimate liquor sales, and many people also lost their jobs and apparently became unable to buy more professionally made liquors.