JUN 23, 2020 7:15 AM PDT

FDA Warns Against Toxic Hand Sanitizers

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen demand for hand sanitizers soar in recent months. As such, the Food and Drug Administration has warned the public to avoid hand sanitizers containing methanol, also known as 'wood alcohol'. Not only the substance less effective than other alcohols at killing bacteria, but it is also known to be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested. 

So far, the FDA has identified nine products for the public to steer clear of: 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, CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, CleanCare Nogerman Advanced Hand Sanitizer, and Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer. 

The announcement comes after the agency tested samples from two products known as Lavar gel and CleanCare NoGerm, finding that they were 81% and 28% made from methanol. Both products, and all nine of the products listed above, are manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico. 

A spokesperson for the company, Alexander Escamillo, said that a third-party registered their labels with the FDA and was responsible for shipping their products. He added that his company would never 'send a toxic chemical maliciously'. 

While methanol by itself is not extremely toxic, the formaldehyde and formic acid- metabolites produced when it breaks down in the body, can cause serious health conditions and even death. While exposure may cause mild symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and blurred version in some, extensive exposure can cause metabolic acidosis, a build-up of acid in the circulatory system, which can lead to seizures, kidney failure, blindness, and fatal heart conditions. 

Children are at the most significant risk of severe problems should they ingest the substance, rub into their skin, or inhale it. The FDA has nevertheless urged anyone who has come into contact with the substance to seek medical attention immediately. 

The FDA states, "FDA recommends that consumers stop using these hand sanitizers and dispose of them immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour these products down the drain."


Sources: New York Times, Standard Media, Forbes

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
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