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FAQ on FDA's methanol warning in hand sanitizers

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Q: What is the risk of using a hand sanitizer that contains methanol (wood alcohol)?

A: The FDA is warning consumers about hand sanitizers that contain methanol, also known as wood alcohol, because it is a dangerous and toxic substance. Methanol can cause serious side effects when absorbed through the skin and can cause blindness or death when swallowed. Do not use any products on this list of hand sanitizers with potential methanol contamination, and continue checking this list often as it is being updated daily.

Check to see if your hand sanitizer is on the list. If so, dispose of it immediately. Most hand sanitizers found to contain methanol do not list it as an ingredient on the label (since it is not an acceptable ingredient in the product), so it’s important to check the FDA’s list to see if the company or product is included. Visit FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol for more information.


Q: What should I do with hand sanitizer that contains methanol (wood alcohol)?

A: If you have one of the products on this list of hand sanitizers with potential methanol contamination, you should immediately stop using it and dispose of the product, ideally in a hazardous waste container. Because these hand sanitizers contain significant amounts of methanol, do not pour these products down the drain or flush them.


Q: What should people do that have been exposed to hand sanitizer with potential methanol contamination?

A: Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.

Although people using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidentally swallow these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk. People who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.


Q: Does spraying people with disinfectant lower the spread of COVID-19?

A: NO, there are no data showing that spraying people with disinfectants can treat, prevent, or lower the spread of COVID-19.

Surface disinfectants are not to be used on people or animals. Disinfectant products, such as sprays, wipes, or liquids, are to be used only on hard surfaces (materials that do not absorb liquids easily) such as floors and countertops. CDC provides information regarding disinfectant practices for surfaces in the Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes.

Human antiseptic drugs, such as hand sanitizers, are intended for use on human skin, but are not intended to be sprayed. There is also a serious safety concern for the risk of inhalational and flammability so use with care. Hand sanitizers are intended for use on the hands, and should never be used over larger body surfaces, swallowed, or inhaled.

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.