Hand-sanitizer manufacturing and sales have exploded recently to meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic, but some products may not be safe for use. On Wednesday, NBC News reported that the United States Food and Drug Administration expanded a list of hand sanitizers it is recalling from store shelves, raising the total number of recently removed products to at least 75. Some of the recalled products are sold at national chains like Walgreens and Costco.
The recalled products tested positive for methanol, or wood alcohol, which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. The FDA recommended that anyone exposed to hand sanitizers containing methanol seek immediate treatment, as substantial exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, seizures, permanent blindness, coma, nervous-system damage, and death. Most of the brands testing positive for methanol are reportedly being imported from Mexico.
Earlier this month, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn issued a statement on these potentially toxic hand-sanitizing products, saying, “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.”
Last month, the FDA issued an advisory warning against using the hand-sanitizer products of Mexico-based manufacturer Eskbiochem after finding methanol in some of its products. Methanol was found in nine brands of Eskbiochem’s products, including All-Clean Hand Sanitizer, CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, and The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (see the full list here). One product, Lavar Gel, contains 81 percent methanol. Young children who accidentally consume the substance are most at risk for methanol poisoning.
A representative for Eskbiochem, Alexander Escamillo, told the Times that someone who “had access to our company” had registered it with the FDA. “He registered our labels and shipped sanitizers,” he said. “We did not register ourselves.” Escamillo expressed confidence in the company’s commitment to take action against the mysterious saboteur, whom he referred to only as a broker. “We would never do that, send a toxic chemical maliciously,” he said. In fact, Escamillo asserts that no one at the company can even log in to their FDA profile, “because we don’t know how to.”
This post has been updated.