The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers to avoid using nine hand sanitizers manufactured in Mexico because they may contain a toxic substance called methanol.
Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is a substance that could be toxic to humans if ingested to absorbed through the skin.
The FDA said it had tested samples of two hand sanitizer products – Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ – that had 81 percent and 28 percent methanol, also called wood alcohol.
The agency said, “Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects.”
Last week, the FDA said it had recommended the manufacturer, Eskbiochem SA de CV, to remove its products from the market but the company did not respond immediately.
Alexander Escamillo, a spokesperson of Eskbiochem, said the manufacturer learned about the FDA’s warning only on Monday.
He said another person who had access to the company registered it with the FDA. Escamillo said, “He registered our labels and shipped sanitizers. We did not register ourselves.”
The company’s spokesperson did not identify the person and said they could not even log into its FDA profile because they do not know how to do it.
Escamillo said, “We would never do that, send a toxic chemical maliciously,” adding that they would take strict action against the person, whom he referred to as a broker.
Meanwhile, the FDA has recommended people who used these hand sanitizers to seek immediate medical attention.
Methanol ingestion could cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, permanent blindness, seizures, and even death in some people.
The FDA said it was unaware of any reports of “adverse events” associated with these hand sanitizers. It has advised consumers to dispose of the sanitizers listed in the warning by talking to a pharmacist.
Apart from Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ, the FDA found methanol in CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, and Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer.
Emergency Physician Dr. Robert Glatter at Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan, said methanol itself was not significantly toxic. He said, rather, it was formaldehyde and formic acid, the metabolites produced by the breakdown of methanol in the body, which could prove deadly.
“Exposure to the metabolites can lead to a condition known as ‘metabolic acidosis,’ a dangerous accumulation of acid in the bloodstream, which is toxic to the organs and tissues in the body, leading to seizures, kidney failure, blindness, low blood pressure, and fatal cardiac arrhythmias,” Dr. Glatter said.
He added, “Children are most at risk if they ingest methanol, but it can also be harmful if they rub it on their skin or inhale it.” The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has increased the sales of hand sanitizers, with people following the recommendations of public health officials to sanitize their hand in order to prevent the spread of the virus.