PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Food and Drug Administration is recalling hand sanitizers with methanol, a hazardous ingredient.
And poison control centers are getting calls.
“I do know poison control centers around the country have been,” says Dr. Tony Pizon of The Pittsburgh Poison Center.
The FDA is also seeing hand sanitizers labeled as containing ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, but they’re contaminated with methanol. This type of alcohol can be used as a pesticide, a solvent or fuel.
It can be absorbed through the skin but is more dangerous if ingested.
“There is a chance of absorbing it through your skin or inhaling the fumes that can cause minor toxicity,” says Dr. Pizon. “If you’re just using hand sanitizer like using hand sanitizer, you’re not likely to develop toxicity.”
“You need to be careful, it being around children and pets because we know ingesting the product is much more serious,” says Dr. Matthew Stripp, AHN Director of Toxicology.
Methanol can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, seizures, coma and more.
“There have actually been a couple of deaths reported,” Dr. Pizon said. “There have been several cases of blindness reported, as well.”
“The body tends to turn this type of alcohol, which is different than the alcohol and wine, beer, and liquor, it turns it into a toxic byproduct. And that can make your blood acidic, and it can do damage to your brain,” Dr. Stripp said.
Luckily, methanol poisoning, if caught early, can be treated with IV fluids and medicines.
“The end treatment would be dialysis to remove the methanol and the metabolites that caused the blindness,” says Dr. Pizon.
Washing your hands with soap and water should be your first choice. If that’s not possible, use hand sanitizer. But shop safely. You can’t see or smell methanol.
The common feature among the tainted products?
“Largely made in Mexico. Those would be the ones to avoid,” Dr. Pizon said. “Reputable brands made in the United States are really the way to ensure safety.”
The FDA has recalled three products and has advised against using 13 others.