FDA Releases Warning on Hand Sanitizer Products After Reports of 'Blindness' and 'Death'

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a formal warning on several new hand sanitizer products, which comes after numerous reports that adults and children in the United States have been blinded, hospitalized and even died in some instances. The incidents also indicated that people had apparently drunk hand sanitizers that were contaminated with methanol, a highly toxic alcohol.

In an updated safety warning, the FDA identified five more brands of hand sanitizers that contain methanol, which can be poisonous if ingested, inhaled, or simply absorbed through the skin, according to Ars Technica. These new products are in addition to nine methanol-containing sanitizers the FDA identified back in June, all of which are made by the Mexico-based manufacturer Eskbiochem SA de CV. According to FDA testing, one of the products contained 81 percent methanol and no ethanol at all, which is a safe alcohol that's commonly used in hand sanitizers. At the time, the FDA reported that it was "not aware of any reports of adverse events associated with these hand sanitizer products." The five new products are as follows.

  • Grupo Insoma's Hand Sanitizer Gel Unscented 70% Alcohol
  • Transliquid Technologies' Mystic Shield Protection hand sanitizer
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas SA de CV's Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free
  • Soluciones Cosmeticas SA de CV's Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution hand sanitizer
  • Tropicosmeticos SA de CV's Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%

The FDA's current warning, which was updated on Monday, indicated that state officials have since reported that "adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death." As the agency pushes for recalls, they are advising consumers to stop using the products from Eskbiochem SA de CV immediately and to seek immediate care if there are any signs of poisoning. If any of the products are currently in use, it's recommended they be disposed of in hazardous waste containers, and not down the drain.

Of course, the FDA is still recommending that people wash their hands with soap and water frequently and for at least 20 seconds. In instances where soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that hand sanitizer containing an alcohol-base, with at least 60 percent ethanol may be used instead.