FDA Issues Warning on Hand Sanitizer

The Food and Drug Administration over the weekend issued a warning on nine alcohol-based hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico that it says contain wood methanol, a toxic substance that could ultimately result in death of absorbed through the skin or ingested.

“Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning,” the FDA wrote on June 19.

“Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death,” the report indicated. The agency said the risk of possible ingestion centered mostly on young children or adolescents who might use alcohol-based sanitizers as a substitute for grain alcohol.

Here are a list of the hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem:

  • All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-002-01)
  • Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-007-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-008-04)
  • The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-010-10)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-005-03)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-009-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-003-01)
  • Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-001-01)

The FDA warnings comes as the coronavirus crisis has ramped up demand for hand sanitizer across the globe. At the height of the pandemic in March, a number of retailers, including Costco Wholesale Corp. COST, 0.52%, BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. BJ, -1.59% and Kroger Co. KR, 0.30%, reported surging sales in hand-cleaning products and other sanitizing merchandise. In the week ending April 25, Nielsen said hand sanitizer saw the highest in-store week-over-week growth.

Individuals have even taken to attempting to make their own hand sanitizer; however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that washing hands with plain soap and water is the best way to kill the novel strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Moreover, hand sanitizer requires at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol dissolves the lipid membrane and disrupts other supramolecular interactions in viruses but you need a fairly high concentration of the alcohol to get a rapid dissolution of the virus. Vodka or whiskey — usually 40% ethanol — won’t dissolve the virus as quickly. “Overall, alcohol is not as good as soap at this task,” wrote Palli Thordarson, a professor at the School of Chemistry at the University of South Wales, Sydney in a column for MarketWatch in April.

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