People are getting sick and even dying after ingesting hand sanitizer, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. Four people have died and others have suffered vision problems or seizures, according to the CDC.
Hand sanitizer is everywhere and is helpful in cleaning hands during the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not safe to swallow, the CDC warns. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products should never be ingested,”
A CDC team described the cases of 15 adults in Arizona and New Mexico hospitalized between May and June for methanol poisoning after consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
The CDC isn’t sure why people might drink hand sanitizer. Children can make it by mistake, and some people may think that it is a good substitute for alcoholic beverages. But no, it’s not.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been warning repeatedly about the methanol content in some hand sanitizers distributed in the United States. Unlike ethanol — which is the alcohol typically used to make hand sanitizers — methanol is toxic and can even poison people through the skin. The FDA has alerted more than 100 hand sanitizer products that may be dangerous to people.
The new CDC report follows that announcement, a CDC spokesperson told CNN in an email on Wednesday.
“We wanted to look specifically at adverse events related to methanol because it is known to be toxic and life-threatening when ingested,” the spokesperson said.
Six seizures, four deaths
In late June, CDC received a notification from public health officials and partners in Arizona and New Mexico about methanol poisoning linked to hand sanitizer ingestion.
Researchers from the CDC and its partners in Arizona and New Mexico reviewed 62 records of calls to poison centers from May through June to characterize cases that could be methanol poisoning from alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Investigators also obtained medical records for additional details. But the report doesn’t provide information on why people ingest hand sanitizer.
The researchers found that 15 people, ages 21 to 65, were admitted to a hospital after ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Six developed seizures while in the hospital and three were discharged with new visual impairments, the researchers found.
One patient, a 44-year-old man, said he drank hand sanitizer in the few days before seeking medical care, according to the CDC document. The man was hospitalized for six days for acute methanol poisoning and when he was released, he went home with almost complete loss of vision.
Four of the adults in the CDC report died
“This research highlights the serious adverse health events, including death, that can occur after ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizer products that contain methanol,” the researchers wrote in the new CDC report.
“Safety messaging should continue to prevent the ingestion of any alcohol-based hand sanitizer products,” they wrote. “Young children may inadvertently swallow these products, while adolescents or adults with a history of alcohol use disorder may intentionally swallow these products as a substitute for alcohol (ethanol).”
“We remain extremely concerned”
In July, the FDA continued to warn consumers and health care workers not to use hand sanitizers that contain methanol or wood alcohol, another type of substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze that can be toxic.
The agency has also placed such products on an ” import alert ” in an effort to prevent them from entering the United States.
“Practicing good hand hygiene, including the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available, is an important public health tool for all Americans. Consumers should also be vigilant about hand sanitizers to hands they use and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA list of hazardous hand sanitizer products,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. , in a statement at the time.
“We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain methanol,” he said.
This is not the first time that public health agencies have reminded people not to ingest certain disinfectants or misuse such products.
In April, just a day after President Trump suggested during a White House briefing that injecting disinfectant could be a potential coronavirus treatment, the CDC posted on Twitter : “Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems. when not used correctly. Follow the directions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use.”