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Important warnings on recalls of dangerous hand sanitizers containing methanol

Person using hand sanitizer

FOR RELEASE: August 5, 2020

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently added more names to the list of hand sanitizers contaminated with methanol. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a toxic substance that is not approved for use in hand sanitizers. Since mid-July alone, the Upstate New York Poison Center has received 49 calls about these products from our 54-county service area. Overall calls for information about hand sanitizers in general and for ingestions/exposures has more than doubled from last year.

Most hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol (ethanol). While dangerous if ingested, it is safe when used as directed for keeping hands clean from germs. Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for any hand sanitizer. Also known as wood alcohol, methanol is often used in pesticides, paint thinner and antifreeze. It can be toxic if absorbed through the skin (though this is rare) and deadly if ingested. Children especially are at high risk as they often explore their surroundings by taste.

“Unfortunately, with these products, there is no way for consumers to tell if the product contains methanol,” says Gail Banach, director of public education and communications at the Upstate New York Poison Center, “Methanol is not approved for use in hand sanitizers, so it will not be listed on the ingredient panel, even if it is inside, so we recommend everyone check the list from the FDA.”

The FDA has composed a list of the companies and products involved and posted a do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products. Some of the products on the FDA’s list have been recalled, others are recommended for recall are still on the market. The products all appear to have been produced in Mexico.
Consumers are asked to check the FDA’s list and compare the information with any hand sanitizer they may have in the home including: manufacturer name, product name and national drug code (NDC) number.

As the number of related calls to poison centers and health departments increases, the FDA is working with U.S. manufacturers to keep or remove these toxic products from the market. If any of the identifiers on a purchased product match those on the list, the FDA urges consumers to immediately stop using the hand sanitizer. Call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 with any questions.

According to the FDA, methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Most of these poisonings occur when someone drinks this product.

Remember, dispose of the hand sanitizer as recommended by local waste management and recycling centers. Do not flush or pour these products down the drain or mix with other liquids.

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.