A helping hand for sanitizer selection
Read up on recalled products and choose wisely
Another unfortunate twist to the pandemic now leaves us fearful of a product we’ve leaned on since the start of the coronavirus outbreak: hand sanitizer.
Though the CDC has emphasized all along that thorough hand-washing is essential to reducing viral spread, hand sanitizer is recommended as a reliable stand-in when soap and fresh water aren’t available or convenient. The recommendation stands, as long as you don’t happen to use a sanitizer containing bootleg methanol.
To date, the FDA has recalled 69 hand sanitizers found to be made with methanol, or wood alcohol, a substance that can be toxic when ingested or absorbed through the skin. On July 2, the federal agency warned consumers and health care providers that testing had shown a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products contaminated by methanol. These products list ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) as an ingredient but actually contain harmful methanol. Wood alcohol is the substance commonly used to create other highly poisonous liquids such as fuel and antifreeze.
Exposure to methanol is serious and can result in vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, nausea, permanent damage to the nervous system and even death. It is especially damaging when ingested, an action that has led to recent instances of blindness, hospitalizations and death among adults and children. (Young children who accidentally ingest sanitizer are at the greatest risk.) The FDA urges anyone who has been exposed to the substance while using hand sanitizer to seek treatment to reverse its effects.This is bad news on top of bad news, but there are measures to take.
- Check out the list of recalled products on the FDA site.
- Follow advice from the CDC and choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol to help battle viral and bacterial germs and other microbes.
- Steer clear of over-hyped product claims that promise to prevent the spread of Covid-19 or provide protection for up to 24 hours. No hand sanitizer is capable of this.
- Use hand sanitizer correctly. That means applying the directed amount (read the label), rubbing it in completely and waiting for your hands to dry before touching anything.
- Be wary of containers that are brightly colored or shaped like drinking bottles as they may be misleading and appeal to children.
- This one should be a given but we’ll say it anyway: Do not drink ANY hand sanitizer under any circumstances.