Protecting yourself from toxic hand sanitizers

How to avoid hand sanitizers that may contain methanol

After the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) flagged five brands of potentially dangerous hand sanitizer last month, the list of products that may be contaminated with methanol has skyrocketed to more than 40 brands, which makes nearly 100 varieties of sanitizer. Only one so far has been manufactured in the United States.

The products have all been recalled voluntarily or should be avoided because methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say.

The hand sanitizers are marketed under an assortment of names. So far, most have been produced in Mexico, FDA spokesman Jeremy Kahn said. The FDA issued its initial warning involving a handful of products in mid-June, but the list of products to avoid has grown longer every week after more products have been cited by the FDA or the companies themselves. The CDC on July 5 issued a health advisory that the products can cause illness, blindness or even death if absorbed or ingested. On July 7, the FDA also moved to block imports of some of the products.

Why these products may be harmful

Hand sanitizers are supposed to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) or isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) as active ingredients. But some have tested positive for methanol (known as wood alcohol), which can be toxic if it touches your skin. The FDA said last week its investigation is ongoing; other hand sanitizers could be added to the list of those to avoid. For now, the FDA is working with affected companies on voluntary recalls. In some cases, the products were manufactured at the same facility as contaminated sanitizer, possibly involving shared equipment. Until the probe is complete, the FDA recommends avoiding any sanitizers under the brand names listed at the bottom of the page.

The FDA is investigating whether the cases of contamination were accidental or intentional if, for example, a manufacturer used an inappropriate substitute for ethyl alcohol, Kahn said. “When we find out, we’ll share that,” he said.

How to protect yourself

With the dramatically increased use of hand sanitizers this year to combat COVID-19, the FDA is also concerned about hand sanitizers that don’t contain enough ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.

People should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, using the restroom or coming in contact with possibly contaminated surfaces, as well as before eating or touching your face. When washing isn’t possible, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent ethanol/ ethyl alcohol.

Avoid these types of products

The FDA and CDC also advise consumers to watch out for hand sanitizers that:

  • Falsely claim they prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 or can offer 24-hour protection.
  • Are promoted as “FDA-approved.” The FDA hasn’t approved any hand sanitizers.
  • Are packaged to look like candy or drinks, because that could lead to accidental ingestion.
How to spot symptoms of methanol exposure

The warnings follow numerous cases in New Mexico and Arizona last month among consumers who used contaminated products that later tested positive for methanol. At least four people died, one person became blind and others had various illnesses that required medical attention.

The CDC recommends people should:

  • Get medical help if you believe you’ve used possibly contaminated hand sanitizer and are experiencing symptoms including headache, blurry or impaired vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination or confusion. You can contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or your doctor.
  • Never ingest any hand sanitizer, no matter what kind of alcohol it contains. 
  • Make sure children can’t get unsupervised access to hand sanitizer.
  • Never use sanitizer on pets or leave containers where pets can get them.
  • Check any hand sanitizers you’re using or are considering buying against the FDA list. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol 
  • Safely discard any contaminated sanitizer. Don’t flush it or pour it down the drain.
Check the list

Here’s a list of the hand sanitizers that the FDA says either contain methanol, are being recalled or were reportedly produced at the same facility as contaminated sanitizer. For now, the FDA recommends consumers avoid hand sanitizers from these companies or products with these names or these National Drug Code numbers. It's important to note that hand sanitizers aren't required to contain an NDC number, so consumers won't find a number on every product, even if the FDA has listed it as a product to avoid for now.  This list is likely to grow.

Product(s)
All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (EskBiochem)
Andy’s
Andy’s Best
Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution hand sanitizer (Soluciones Cosmeticas)

Assured Aloe
Assured Instant Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer with Aloe and Moisturizers
Assured Instant Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer with Vitamin E and Aloe
Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer (Aloe and Moisturizers)
Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer (Vitamin E and Aloe)
Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free

Bio AAA Advance Hand Sanitizer (AAA Cosmetica)

Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer
Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer
Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Aloe 
Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Aloe, with 70% alcohol
Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Clear
Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Lavender, with 70% alcohol
Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear
Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear Ethyl Alcohol 70% 
Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Lavender
Blumen Aloe Advanced Hand Sanitizer, with 70% Alcohol
Blumen Antibacterial Fresh Citrus Hand Sanitizer
Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer with 70% Alcohol
Blumen Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer 
Blumen Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe
Blumen Clear Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Lavender
Blumen Clear Lear Advanced Hand Sanitizer
Blumen Hand Sanitizer Fresh Citrus
Blumen Instant Hand Sanitizer Aloe Vera
Blumen Instant Hand Sanitizer Fragrance Free 
Born Basic. Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer
Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%
Cavalry
CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol 
Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer with 70% Alcohol extra soft with glycerin and aloe
DAESI hand sanitizer
Earths Amenities Instant Unscented Hand Sanitizer with Aloe Vera Advanced 
Enliven Hand Sanitizing Gel
EskBiochem Hand Sanitizer
Gelclor
Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer (Real Clean Distribuciones)
Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare (DDI Multinacional)
Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel 70% Ethyl Alcohol (labeled with Resource Recovery & Trading LLC)
Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel 70% Ethyl Alcohol Rinse Free Hand Rub (labeled with Resource Recovery & Trading LLC)
Hand Sanitizer Gel Unscented 70% Alcohol (Grupo Insoma)  
Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer
Herbacil Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer 
Honeykeeper Hand Sanitizer
ITECH 361 All Clean Hand Sanitizer, Moisturizer and Disinfectant
Jaloma Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer
Keep It Clean
Klar and Danver Instant Hand Sanitizer (labeled with Greenbrier International Inc.)
Klar and Danver instant hand sanitizer
Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer
Leiper's Fork Distillery Bulk Disinfectant
LumiSkin Advance Hand Sanitizer 16 oz 
LumiSkin Advance Hand Sanitizer 4 oz
Lux Eoi Hand Sanitizing Gel
Modesa Instant Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer with Moisturizers and Aloe Vera
Modesa Instant Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer with Moisturizers and Vitamin E
Modesa Instant Hand Sanitizer Moisturizers and Vitamin E
Mystic Shield Protection hand sanitizer
NeoNatural
NEXT Hand Sanitizer
NuuxSan Instant Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer
NuuxSan Instant Hand Sanitizer
Optimus Instant Hand Sanitizer - 2 Varieties 
Optimus Lubricants Instant Hand Sanitizer
QualitaMed Hand Sanitizer
Plus Advanced (Limpo Quimicos)
Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer
Scent Theory - Keep It Clean - Pure Clean Anti-Bacterial Hand Sanitizer
Selecto Hand Sanitizer
Shine and Clean Hand Sanitizer
Vidanos Easy Cleaning Rentals Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare
Wet Look Janitorial and Gardening Corp. hand sanitizer
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