Vector image of a person using hand sanitizer

As part of continued action to protect the American public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to warn consumers and health care professionals about hand sanitizer products containing methanol, or wood alcohol — a substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze that is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizer products and can be toxic when absorbed through the skin as well as life-threatening when ingested.

In a press release issued by the FDA recently, the agency say it has seen an increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. State officials have also reported recent adverse events from adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol, including blindness, hospitalizations and death.

The agency continues to warn the public not to use specific products and is communicating with manufacturers and distributors of these dangerous products about recalling them. The FDA also continues to quality-test hand sanitizers, including testing products entering the country through the U.S. border, and maintains a list of FDA-tested and recalled hand sanitizers on the agency’s website, which will be continually updated as dangerous products are discovered.

“All Americans should practice good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Unfortunately, there are some companies taking advantage of the increased usage of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk by selling products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients. Consumers and health care providers should not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers,” says FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “The FDA remains committed to working with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the safe supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This includes staying vigilant and continuing to take action when quality issues with hand sanitizers arise.”

In June, the FDA warned consumers not to use several types of hand sanitizer made in Mexico by Eskbiochem. Since then, voluntary recalls have been conducted by several of Eskbiochem’s distributors and the agency is recommending additional companies recall their hand sanitizer products. For a full list of the products causing concern, click here.

The FDA recommends consumers immediately stop using these hand sanitizers and dispose of the bottle in a hazardous waste container, if available, or dispose of as recommended by your local waste management and recycling center. Do not flush or pour these products down the drain or mix with other liquids.

Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although people using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.

The issue of adults with substance abuse problems intentionally drinking hand sanitizer was recently demonstrated by a string of deaths and hospitalizations in New Mexico.