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Coronavirus Coverage

Apparently this doesn’t go without saying. On Wednesday Federal Health Authorities issued a formal warning about the dangers of ingesting hand sanitizer after the death of four people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fifteen cases of methanol poisoning from Arizona and New Mexico were reported between May and June. Though hand sanitizer is a viable alternative to helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 when hand washing is not an option, the CDC cautions that it is not safe to swallow. In a new report, the CDC warns that “Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer products containing methanol can cause life-threatening methanol poisoning.”

The FDA has repeatedly warned about the use of methanol in hand sanitizers. Unlike ethanol- an alcohol that is approved to be used in hand sanitizer- methanol is a harmful chemical often found in products like antifreeze and fuel products that are not be used on skin. Though alcohol-based hand sanitizers should only include ethanol or isopropanol, some sanitizers imported from outside of the U.S. have been found to contain methanol.

After receiving notification in late June from public health officials in Arizona and New Mexico about methanol poisoning linked with the ingestion of hand sanitizers, CDC researchers have examined these cases and effects. They found that fifteen people, ages 21 to 65 were hospitalized after ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Researchers discovered that six of the patients developed seizures while in the hospital, while three were discharged with new visual impairments. Four of the fifteen died.

The CDC stated that “Safety messaging to avoid ingestion of any alcohol-based hand sanitizer product should continue. Similar cases of methanol toxicity might be occurring in other states and localities.” For now, the public is advised to check their products against the FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers Consumers Should Not Use website and discontinue usage of any products on this list. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizers containing methanol should stop use immediately and seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms are experienced.

Written by Brianna Pisacane

Brianna joined WJBR as a digital content producer intern in June 2020 after graduating with latin honors from the University of Delaware. Her interests extend into the areas of writing, journalism, marketing and production. She previously worked as an intern at The Biden Institute where she prepared daily news briefings and developed content for the organization’s digital platforms.