CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Blue Ridge Poison Center warns that some hand sanitizer products have been found to contain methanol, a dangerous ingredient which could cause illness or injury when absorbed through the skin or swallowed.
Methanol — or wood alcohol — is not an approved or recommended ingredient for any sanitizing or disinfecting product.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is performing an ongoing investigation into the problem.
Methanol is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide and alternative fuel source, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Exposure to it can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and death.
“Children who accidentally swallow these products and adolescents or adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk,” said Kristin Wenger, education coordinator of the Blue Ridge Poison Center.
The FDA created a list of brands of hand sanitizer found to contain methanol.
The list is available on its website — www.fda.gov and is updated regularly.
In addition, the FDA offers these guidelines for detecting products which may be suspect:
— Products that are fraudulently marked as “FDA-Approved” since there are no hand sanitizers approved by the FDA;
— Products with misleading, unproven claims that they can prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, including claims that they can provide prolonged protection (e.g. for up to 24-hours);
— Products packaged to appear as drinks, candy or liquor bottles, as well as products marketed as drinks or cocktails;
— Products labeled with harmful or poisonous ingredients such as methanol;
— Hand sanitizer products from Mexico should be considered suspect at this time, as many of the problematic products discovered were manufactured in Mexico.
Anyone who has hand sanitizer products matching the descriptions above — or listed on the FDA website should not use them and dispose of them immediately.
Hand sanitizer with approved ingredients, including ethanol (ethyl alcohol), could also cause injury or illness if swallowed.
The Blue Ridge Poison Center advises that all hand sanitizer should be kept out of sight and reach of children.
Adults should supervise young children while using it.
If you suspect someone has swallowed hand sanitizer or any cleaning or disinfecting product, call the Blue Ridge Poison Center for help at 1-800-222-1222. All calls are free and confidential.