The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Americans in a statement released on June 19, 2020, about the health risks associated with methanol-based hand sanitizers.  Commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs (ABHSR) usually contain one of two active ingredients, either ethanol or isopropanol. However, the FDA has identified products manufactured by “Eskbiochem SA de CV” in Mexico that contain methanol which is considered a “toxic alcohol.”  Methanol can cause blindness or even death when absorbed into the skin.

The FDA has been working hard to locate any additional methanol-based ABHSR products. They have been working with manufacturers and distributors on issuing voluntary recalls of these products. For the most up to date list of methanol-based hand sanitizers, click here.

If you possess a product on the FDA’s list of methanol-based ABHSR products, discontinue use of it and discard it immediately.  Failure to discontinue use could result in serious health issues such as blindness and even death.

The CDC was notified by the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center about seven patients that had ingested methanol-based ABHSR products.  “Significant blood methanol concentrations were detected in all patients; four died, one critically ill patient recovered with loss of vision, and outcomes are pending on the remaining two critically ill patients,” said the CDC in a recent health advisory.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported to the CDC that an additional six patients had ingested the methanol-based ABHSR products in June 2020.  Of these critically ill patients, two have been released from the hospital, one has permanent blindness, and four are “pending outcomes.”

Ingesting methanol-based products is the most common way someone will get methanol poisoning, it is believed that prolonged use of those products on your skin could also result in methanol poisoning. Some of the symptoms of methanol poisoning are headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, and decreased level of consciousness.

The CDC urges anyone who has swallowed an ABHSR product or is experiencing symptoms from prolonged use of products on the “FDA’s testing and manufacturer’s recalls” list to seek immediate medical attention and contact their poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice.

For More Information

— Staff Reports

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