Methanol in hand sanitizers is a health hazard, the FDA says. Make sure the products you buy don't have it.
With Purell and other name-brand hand sanitizers being hard to come by during the pandemic, several new, never-heard-of-before brands are filling store shelves to meet the demand. While many of these new hand sanitizers smell like a college party, they are effective against germs and safe to use. But according to the FDA, some of the hand sanitizers on the market contain a toxic ingredient -- methanol -- that is dangerous when ingested or absorbed through the skin, and can be fatal in large quantities.
The FDA first released a warning statement on June 19 saying consumers should not buy hand sanitizer products from the Mexico-based manufacturer Eskbiochem, because they contain methanol. On July 2, the FDA updated its warning, noting that the agency has seen a "sharp increase" in hand sanitizers labeled as containing ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol), but actually containing methanol.
The list of questionable hand sanitizers has gotten so long that the FDA created a searchable database for consumers to use if they're unsure about their hand sanitizer. On July 21, the FDA updated that list yet again. In total, there are now more than 75 hand sanitizers that may contain the toxic ingredient methanol.
Select hand sanitizers from the following brands and distributors are on the FDA's list to avoid. Be sure to check the FDA's website for the full details on which products contain methanol.
The FDA encourages consumers not to buy the brands of hand sanitizer above after testing revealed their products contain methanol. The FDA also urges people to avoid hand sanitizers labeled "FDA-approved" because the FDA has not approved any hand sanitizers and therefore those claims are false.
If you have experienced a bad reaction to hand sanitizer in the recent weeks or months, you can report it to the FDA through the form on this website. The FDA relies on reports like this to identify potentially toxic products and take them off the market or issue warning statements.
The demand for hand sanitizers is still high as the coronavirus pandemic resurges, which makes the recent health warning even more jarring. Many people can't find their usual hand sanitizer online or in stores, so they turn to new brands that may or may not have manufactured hand sanitizer before the pandemic.
If you have used a hand sanitizer with methanol in the last few months, throw it out. The FDA advises that you seek medical treatment immediately if you've been exposed to methanol, because intervention is required to reverse the toxic effects of methanol poisoning.
Everyone exposed to methanol is at risk for methanol poisoning, but young children are especially susceptible, the FDA says.