A part of what we do as personal injury attorneys can be product liability cases. All of the aim of what we do is making the greater community safer by trying to hold negligent people and companies accountable and make dangers known to the greater community. So from time to time we like to give the greater public an idea of how to avoid dangerous products.
Hand sanitizer was in high demand and short supply as the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis was developing, and companies struggled to meet the demand effectively. It's now become clear that producers of alcohol-based hand sanitizers may have cut some dangerous corners or perhaps were careless in a dangerous way that we feel it's important to highlight and publicize.
The FDA is finding that many hand sanitizer products recently distributed widely are labeled to contain ethanol, but rather have tested positive for methanol. You can read updates from the FDA directly here. Methanol is more commonly known as wood alcohol and can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. It can be life-threatening.
Suffice it to say for adults, and particularly young children, usage of hand sanitizer products containing methanol rather than ethanol is something that should be avoided. According to the FDA, this ingredient confusion and the use of hand sanitizers containing methanol “has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.”
Perhaps the hand sanitizer companies started out with the best of intentions of helping the greater public address the shortage in supply of hand sanitizer, but it is clear at this point that what may have started with good intentions has become a danger to the public at large.
These findings are in their early stages and the FDA is continuing to investigate the presence of methanol in certain hand sanitizers. If you think you have been exposed to the hand sanitizer containing methanol and if you are experiencing symptoms, the FDA advises that you should seek immediate treatment in the hopes of reversing the toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Some of the symptoms to look out for are: nausea, vomiting, headache, and blurred vision. Ultimate effects can include: permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, and/or death.
If you find that your hand sanitizer is unsafe for use, do remember that washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is still a perfectly valid and important safety measure during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, if you do end up seeking medical treatment as a result of tainted hand sanitizer, know that there is a reporting program (FDA's “MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting” program) that your medical provider can use to alert the FDA of additional dangerous products out there. Reporting means that hopefully others will hear about the danger before they have any adverse events due to the same product.
You can find a list of the hand sanitizers having been found to contain methanol here.