FDA warns on Methanol Contamination using Hand Sanitizers and Expands the List of Poisonous Products

FDA warns consumers and healthcare professionals on the large use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers due to the dangerous presence of methanol. Methanol contamination can be even deadly. The next steps are strong actions in order to prevent certain products.

Methanol, or wood alcohol – a substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze – can be toxic when absorbed through the skin as well as life-threatening when ingested. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns methanol contamination is really dangerous and is trying to prevent hand sanitizers which contain such substance from entering the United States by placing them on an import alert.


The alert of the FDA on methanol contamination risks if contained into hand sanitizers

The FDA is proactively working with manufacturers to encourage retailers to remove products from store shelves and online marketplaces. As in the released official document (link at the end of the article), among these actions, FDA issued a warning letter to Eskbiochem S.A. de C.V. The letter was regarding the distribution of products labelled as manufactured at its facilities with undeclared methanol, misleading claims.

The agency stated that this month about an increasing number of adverse events could be primarily reported to methanol contamination. The agency continues to see these figures rise.

Of course, this is not a statement which is going to prevent people from hand-sanitizing with alcohol-based hand sanitizers. FDA is only warning to be careful to the packaging description of contents. In times of COVID-19, it is absolutely important, or essential, providing good hand sanctification with hand sanitizers in the absence of water and soap. But the agency remains extremely concerned about the potentially serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol.

In most cases, methanol does not appear on the product label. The FDA’s ongoing testing has found methanol contamination in hand sanitizer products ranging from 1% to 80%.

The agency has posted a ‘do-not-use list’ of dangerous hand sanitizer products, which they will update regularly. The indications in it aim to push consumers not to use any hand sanitizer products from the particular manufacturers on the list even if the product or particular lot number is not listed. Why? Because some manufacturers are recalling only certain – but not all – of their hand sanitizer products.


Methanol in hand sanitizers. What are contamination symptoms?

Methanol exposure, and eventually contamination, can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. People who use these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning. Especially young children who ingest these products by licking their own skin.  Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of the toxic effects of methanol contamination.

The FDA encourages health care professionals, consumers and patients to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. The agency really asks for help in identifying this kind of products and launches a call to the community.



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