Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers with Active Methanol May Kill People

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Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Photo by Noah on Unsplash

As the coronavirus continues to drive up deaths in the population, there’s another type of case that is making health officials worry. The United State’s Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports people are falling ill and also dying from ingesting hand sanitizer. On Wednesday CDC confirmed four deaths from hand sanitizer ingestion alone, while others are suffering impaired vision or seizures.

During the coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizers have been an important part of our arsenal for protection against infection. They are easily available and are essential for cleaning hands when there is no water or cleaning agent like soap available. For swallowing, however, it is nowhere near safe, says CDC warns.

CDC declares in a new report that alcohol-based products of hand sanitizers are not safe for ingesting. A team from the organization found 15 cases in New Mexico and Arizona, the 15 adults in question ended up hospitalized for methanol poisoning after they ingested alcohol-based hand sanitizers between May-June.

Also Read: The New Study Finds an Association of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Suicide Risk

Currently, CDC is unsure about what drives someone to drink hand sanitizers. While children may do so by accident, others may consider it an alternative to alcoholic drinks which is a grave mistake to make.

The US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has released repeated warnings about methanol that is an ingredient in some hand sanitizers sold in the United States. Unlike the properties of ethanol that is usually used in making hand sanitizers, methanol is lethal and can poison people even through skin contact. FDA does not recommend more than 100 hand sanitizer products because of this reason.

The new CDC report follows this very announcement. A spokesperson responded on Wednesday saying they want to look at the harmful events linked to methanol because it is seen as a toxic and potentially lethal ingredient once ingested.

Near the end of June, CDC received signals from public health officials and partners working in Mexico and Arizona regarding methanol poisoning that was linked with the swallowing of hand sanitizers.

The CDC partners and researchers in New Mexico and Arizona looked at around 62 call records from poison centers throughout the months of May-june, to find cases specific to methanol poisoning from alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The research also collected medical records for additional details. The report however could not procure reasons for why these people ingested hand sanitizer.

Their findings show the cases included 15 people between the ages of 21 to 65, they were all taken to the hospital after they swallowed hand sanitizer.

The researchers found that six among these patients suffered seizures within the hospital while the other three survived and were let go with newly developed visual impairments.

Among the patients reported was a 44-year-old man who said he swallowed hand sanitizer some few days prior but only called for medical care later on. For six days after that he was hospitalized for acute methanol poisoning after being discharged he went home with total vision loss.

CDC reported the deaths of about four adults.

Also Read: Research Shows Children can Carry a Huge Amount of Coronavirus Particles

In the report, researchers wrote about how significantly this investigation brings to light the dangerous health events that can take place if alcohol-based hand sanitizer products are ingested that specifically contain methanol. Ingesting such products can even lead to death which is a major concern for such products.

They encouraged safety messaging to influence people to avoid swallowing hand sanitizer products. They understand that young children can swallow such products unintentionally including adults who have some sort of history with alcohol dependency.

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