75 hand sanitizers on FDA’s updated list of toxic products

FDA seeing spike in hand sanitizers containing methanol

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You’re going to want to check the label on your hand sanitizer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeing a spike in hand sanitizers containing methanol, or wood alcohol, which is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.

There are now a total of 75 different hand sanitizers on the FDA’s updated list of toxic products, some of which have already been recalled while others are being recommended for recalls.

The FDA says methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers.

Dawn Sollee, director of Florida’s Poison Control Center, warns that when checking the ingredient list on a sanitizer’s label, methanol might be disguised under another name

“They’re not going to say they contain methanol. They’re going to say they contain ethanol,” Sollee said.

Sollee says instead of looking at the ingredients on the bottle, check where the product was made.

“You won’t know just by looking at the ingredients. If it does say it contains methanol, you don’t want to have it. Most of the time, it’s just going to say ethanol, but you do want to look where the product is coming from. The majority of products we’ve had problems with are from Mexico,” Sollee said.

According to the FDA, “substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.”

Sollee says there is no need to panic if you’ve been using a product on the list, but you should immediately throw it out.

“Just because somebody accidentally put it on or happened to use it, someone shouldn’t really freak out about it,” Sollee said.

It’s worth noting that methanol has not been the biggest rise in poison cases reported to the Florida Poison Control Center.

Here are the products that have caused an uptick in poison cases compared to last year:

  • Hand Sanitizers – up 85% (291 vs. 531)
  • Disinfectants – up 119% (187 vs. 410)
  • Bleaches - up 40% (1,093 vs. 1,524)
  • Rubbing Alcohols – up 68% (117 vs. 197)
  • Vitamins – up 46% (854 vs. 1,226)
  • All household cleaning products (which include things like disinfectants, bleaches, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, etc.) – up 30% (3,246 vs. 4,230)

“Usually it’s just getting into the wrong hands. There were some cases where people accidentally or kind of intentionally were drinking it trying to avoid or cure COVID. We would never recommend for anyone to ingest bleach. But normally it’s kids getting into it while the product is being used,” said Sollee.

Sollee says if you believe your child may have ingested harmful products, look for symptoms like if the child is intoxicated, like seeming out of it, nausea, vomiting and blood sugar drop.

If you have any of the listed hand sanitizer products, the FDA says to dispose of them immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour them down the drain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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