The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning for the public not to buy or use hand sanitizer produced by a particular company as it contains methanol.
Methanol, the simplest molecule in the alcohol family, can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. According to the FDA, certain hygiene products manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico can potentially contain methanol. As such, the institution warns people not to use them.
“Substantial exposure” to methanol can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or even death, according to the FDA.
The bad alcohol
“Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for a potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning,” the FDA says in a statement.
“Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.
The warning extends to nine products of the company, which the FDA found methanol in samples of. These are All-Clean Hand Sanitizer, Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer, CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer, The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer, Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer and three varieties of CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer.
Sampling revealed between 28% to 80% methanol and no ethyl alcohol (the last one is the one in beer or other drinks) in some of these products. “methanol and no ethyl alcohol” the agency adds. Products should contain ethyl alcohol (ethanol), isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), or benzalkonium chloride to be marketed as hand sanitizers.
People who apply the products to their hands are at some risk for methanol poisoning, but the greatest risk comes from ingesting methanol. The FDA notes that children tend to accidentally ingest such products, while others (teens and adults) will sometimes drink them as an alcohol substitute.
If you’ve used these products, seek medical treatment immediately, the FDA advises. Any remaining products should be disposed of as well.
The agency has contacted Eskbiochem to ask them to remove the products from the market but the company has yet to take action, prompting the current public warning.
Methanol is dangerous because our bodies break it down into formic acid, which is toxic to our cells. Around 56 grams of methanol are, on average, the lethal dose for an adult human. Methanol poisoning is most usually associated with unlicensed alcohol production, where methanol isn’t properly removed during the distillation process.