July 27, 2020
Federal regulators have recalled dozens of hand sanitizers—many of them, widely available through Walmart, Costco, and other national retailers—because they contain dangerous and potentially fatal levels of wood alcohol (also known as methanol).
Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified at least 75 brands whose labels say they contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol)—but later proved to contain methanol.
The FDA recommends that consumers should 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.
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.
. While methanol-containing hand sanitizers are more life-threatening than others, the FDA urges all consumers not to drink any hand sanitizer product. This is particularly important for young children, especially toddlers, who may be attracted by the pleasant smell or brightly colored bottles. During the pandemic, poison control centers have had an increase in calls about accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer, and it is important that adults keep these products out of reach of children and monitor young children’s use.
Do not use hand sanitizer on pets or allow pets to swallow hand sanitizer. If you believe your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous, call a veterinarian or a pet poison control center immediately.
Consumers are reminded to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not readily available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol.
The FDA encourages health care professionals, consumers and patients to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program (please provide the agency with as much information as possible to identify the product):
- Complete and submit the report online, or
- Download and complete the form, then submit it via fax at 1-800-FDA-0178.
Consumers, manufacturers or distributors who have questions for the FDA regarding hand sanitizers should email COVID-19-Hand-Sanitizers@fda.hhs.gov.
Research contact: @US_FDA