Since June of 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been sounding the alarm about hand sanitizer. Specifically, hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol, an ingredient of antifreeze that is poisonous to humans. In August, the FDA expanded its warnings to include sanitizer products with 1-propanol contamination. 1- propanol is a toxic substance that can become life-threatening when ingested.
Amid contamination concerns, the FDA also announced that some hand sanitizers had “concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, which are active ingredients in hand sanitizer products.” As of November 18, 2020, the FDA had recalled 212 ‘unsafe’ hand sanitizer products, and the agency continues to update its hand sanitizer advisories regularly.
The FDA first discovered evidence of methanol contamination in hand sanitizer products manufactured by Eskbiochem in Mexico. Nevertheless, the list of 9 contaminated products continued to grow and include more manufacturers. By July 2, 2020, the FDA released a warning about methanol contamination in hand sanitizer products. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance used to create fuel and antifreeze products. It is inappropriate for human use and can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested. Unsettlingly, the FDA found several products labeled to contain ethanol or ethyl alcohol that contained methanol instead. Adults and children who ingest methanol can suffer blindness, hospitalizations, and death – and even people who use the contaminated products on their hands can suffer methanol poisoning over time.
If you, your child, or your pet has ingested hand sanitizer or has concerns about methanol poisoning, seek assistance via the national toll-free Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
You should also report your experience to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program and consider taking legal action against the hand sanitizer manufacturer.
In August, the FDA discovered another batch of hand sanitizers that were labeled to contain ethanol or isopropyl alcohol but tested positive for 1-propanol contamination. Ingesting 1-propanol can cause central nervous system depression and death.
While skin exposure can result in irritation and allergic reaction, the symptoms of 1-propanol poisoning include confusion, decreased consciousness, and slowed pulse and breathing. If you are concerned about 1-propanol exposure, contact Poison Control right away or seek medical attention by calling 911.
When you are safe, you should also make a report with the FDA’s MedWatch program (see above) and discuss your legal rights with our attorneys.
Methanol and 1-propanol contamination are not the FDA’s only concerns. Many hand sanitizers the agency tested turned out to be subpotent, which means they do not have enough approved active ingredients (ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride) to be effective. Other recalled sanitizers had microbial contamination, touted false or misleading claims, or were packaged in misleading food and drink containers.
The FDA reminds consumers to never swallow or drink hand sanitizer of any kind – and that children are most at risk, especially when sanitizers are packaged or flavored to look and smell like food or beverages.
Consumers should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol when soap and water are not readily available.
Before you reach for your hand sanitizer, however, use the following guide: Is Your Hand Sanitizer on FDA’s List of Products You Should Not Use?
If your hand sanitizer has been recalled, contaminated with toxic chemicals, or otherwise flagged by the FDA, do not use it. Throw it away immediately (in a hazardous waste container if you can).
If you have been using a sanitizer on the FDA’s do-not-use list, monitor yourself for signs of methanol or 1-propanol toxicities. Always keep hand sanitizer away from children and pets and do not use any kind of hand sanitizer as a substitute for alcoholic beverages.
Remember, it is impossible to know if your hand sanitizer is contaminated just by looking at it. Alcohol poisoning from any type of alcohol can cause serious health problems or death, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already gathered data on various adverse health events from contaminated sanitizers.
If you have been harmed by dangerous or defective products, our team at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin is here to help. Call us at (561) 922-0258 or contact us online to learn more about your options and put 200+ years of collective legal experience on your side. Free consultations!