In response to the growing number of hand sanitizer products found to contain either inadequate levels of the right ingredients or toxic levels of contaminants, the Food and Drug Administration will begin making a lab test available to ensure the quality of these products. The agency’s website alludes to the fact that such testing of hand sanitizer products will be mandatory in an effort “to protect health care providers and consumers from using dangerous hand sanitizer products.”
Hand sanitizer safety quickly came into question when it was discovered that a number of brands, primarily originating out of Mexico, contained methanol, or wood alcohol. The substance is highly toxic and can cause adverse effects regardless of whether it is absorbed through the skin or consumed. In the latter case, ingestion of products containing methanol can cause seizures, blindness, and can also lead to death. Such was the case in Arizona and New Mexico when 15 people were admitted to area hospitals after ingesting a methanol-based hand sanitizer. Four of them died while three experienced either a complete or nearly complete loss of vision.
The FDA’s list of contaminated hand sanitizers has exploded in size since its initial report called attention to just nine individual brands. That report quickly turned into a watchlist of over 50, while today the number of potentially toxic hand sanitizers consumers are advised to avoid sits at 171. The list includes products that have been made at facilities that produced other products found to contain methanol as well as products the agency tested itself and found methanol contamination. Also included in the list are products that failed their own company’s testing, including those that were found to contain microbial contamination.
Consumers are advised to take extra care when selecting and purchasing hand sanitizer products and to check any unknown brands against the FDA’s list of products to avoid. While the agency has placed importation bans on as many products as it can, the amount of sanitizer already available makes the task very difficult. In this case, a consumer’s best choice is to do their own due diligence and work to ensure they aren’t putting themselves, their families, or their co-workers at risk.
The FDA’s list of toxic hand sanitizers is constantly updated and can be found here.