One company’s hand sanitizer products contain potentially deadly substance, FDA warns

A person using a bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public not to use hand sanitizer products made by a Mexican company because they contain a poisonous substance called methanol, which can be deadly when absorbed through the skin or ingested.

The warning applies to nine hand sanitizer products made by the company, called Eskbiochem, according to a statement from the FDA. The agency said it found methanol in samples taken from several of the company’s products. 

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.

People may be at risk for methanol poisoning if they use the substance on their hands, but the greatest risk for poisoning occurs when people ingest methanol, either accidentally (for example, if the product is ingested by a child) or intentionally (which may be the case for teens or adults who drink the products as an alcohol substitute), the FDA said.

The nine products are known as 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, the statement said.

Consumers who have these products should stop using them and dispose of them immediately. People who have been exposed to these products should seek immediate medical treatment to reverse the toxic effects of methanol poisoning, the agency said.

The agency has asked Eskbiochem to remove the products from the market, but the company has yet to take action, the statement said. 

So far, the FDA has not received reports of illness tied to these products. 

To be marketed as a hand sanitizer, a product should contain ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol), isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient, Live Science previously reported. 

Although methanol is a type of alcohol, it is extremely poisonous and is found in products such as antifreeze and racing fuel, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The body metabolizes methanol into a compound called formic acid, which is highly toxic to cells, Live Science previously reported. Ingestion of as little as 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of methanol can be deadly for a child, and 2 to 8 ounces (60 to 240 milliliters) can be deadly for an adult, the NIH says.

In the past, some people have been poisoned with methanol after trying to make their own alcohol, or from drinking spirits that were manufactured illegally.  


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