How to Avoid Toxic Hand Sanitizers | Muse Health

Health     Hand Sanitizer   COVID-19    

Many of us have been using hand sanitizer much more in recent months than ever before. It's a quick solution for cleaning your hands when you're out and about and can't find somewhere to wash your hands as easily. As well as carrying some of your own, you're now likely to find it in many stores and other establishments to help people maintain hygiene at all times. Unfortunately, there is also a potential for some hand sanitizer products to be dangerous. The FDA initially flagged several brands as being potentially dangerous in June, and since then, dozens of brands have been added to the list of products that may contain methanol.

The products that have been identified have been recalled voluntarily or should be avoided, according to both the FDA and the CDC. So how can you make sure that you avoid hand sanitizers that are potentially toxic?

bottle of methanol

Why Are Hand Sanitizers Containing Methanol Dangerous?

Methanol is a type of alcohol that can be very dangerous. Hand sanitizers should be made with different types of alcohol, either ethanol or isopropanol, which are safer to use as active ingredients. However, some hand sanitizers have tested positive for methanol, which is also known as wood alcohol. Methanol can be toxic if it touches the skin and is even more dangerous when ingested. In July, the CDC issued a health advisory warning that hand sanitizer products containing methanol could cause illness, blindness, or even death if either ingested or absorbed through the skin. Imports of some of the products, many of which are made in Mexico, have also been blocked by the FDA.

The FDA has also warned of hand sanitizers contaminated with 1-propanol, which is also dangerous when consumed. Those most at risk of being harmed by contaminated hand sanitizers include children and those who use the products as a substitute for alcohol (ethanol) - i.e., people who may have problems with alcohol abuse.

In addition to this, the FDA has also issued a warning about hand sanitizers packaged in food and drink packages. They published a press release warning that some hand sanitizers are being packaged in "beer cans, children's food pouches, water bottles, juice bottles, and vodka bottles" and that some products have also contained food flavors. The concern is that these products could be confused for consumable products.

woman applying hand sanitizer

Which Sanitizers Are Potentially Dangerous?

You can find an up to date list of hand sanitizers that consumers should not use on the FDA website. Take a look at their hand sanitizer list page and click or tap on the button that says "hand sanitizers consumers should not use." It will take you to a list of products that have been identified as containing methanol or potentially containing it. Products on the list include not just those that have tested positive for toxic ingredients but also those that are purportedly manufactured at the same facility as products that have tested positive.

Some of the brands that are on the list include:

  • Blumen
  • Modesa
  • The Honeykeeper
  • Assured
  • Bio aaa
  • LumiSkin

There are many more brands and products on the list, so be sure to check if you want to know about a specific product. You can search the list if you're looking for any product in particular, or you can just browse through the list. There is a long list of products, although many of them come from a handful of manufacturers.

FDA approved written on a notebook

What Is the FDA Doing About the Problem?

Apart from maintaining a list of hand sanitizers to avoid, the FDA is taking steps to help you avoid toxic hand sanitizers. They are regularly updating the public on the situation with information, warnings, and press releases. The FDA is also providing a laboratory testing method to assess the quality of finished hand sanitizer products. This should help distributors and retailers to ensure they are selling safe products.

curious woman holding a magnifying glass

How Can You Avoid Toxic Hand Sanitizers?

Firstly, you can avoid toxic hand sanitizers by checking the list from the FDA. In addition to this, there are some things that you can look out for to help you avoid dangerous hand sanitizers. The FDA and CDC recommend avoiding hand sanitizers that claim they are approved by the FDA or which make false claims, such as that they can prevent the spread of viruses or last 24 hours. They also recommend avoiding hand sanitizers that are packaged to look like drinks or other consumable products.

In addition to possible methanol and 1-propanol exposure, there is also concern about hand sanitizers that might not contain enough ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to be effective. To avoid this problem, look for hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% of one of these ingredients. Hand sanitizer should also only be used in addition to hand washing, when washing your hands may not be practical or possible. It's still important to wash your hands regularly, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

know the signs of methanol exposure

Although there are things that you can do to avoid the use of dangerous hand sanitizer products, you should also know the warning signs of methanol poisoning. Recent cases in Arizona and New Mexico included several deaths, as well as blindness in one person and illness in others.

Some of the symptoms to look out for are:

  • Headache
  • Blurry or impaired vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion

If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms and may have injected hand sanitizer, you should call for medical help. Contact your doctor or call Poison Control.

You should never ingest hand sanitizer and make sure that children do not have access to it unsupervised. Keep any pets away from hand sanitizer too. Avoid buying any sanitizers that resemble consumable products so that they aren't mistaken for food or drink. If you have bought contaminated hand sanitizer, you should dispose of it safely, avoiding flushing it or pouring it down the drain.