In just a handful of months, hand sanitizer became a household staple in America as people across the country geared up to face COVID-19. It provided the perfect solution to those who wanted to stay clean while on the go. And in the matter of days, the store shelves were cleared of it.
It’s great that people are taking their health seriously and buying products that will keep them safe. But unfortunately, not every product is keeping them safe.
The surge of toxic hand sanitizers
You might have seen that since June, the FDA has been urging consumers to avoid using certain toxic hand sanitizers.
The original list of dangerous sanitizing products included 9 brands from a company called Eskbiochem. Their products were found to have considerable amounts of methanol (wood alcohol), which is toxic when consumed or absorbed through your skin. Methanol should never be used in hand sanitizer as it can cause vomiting, seizures, permanent blindness, coma, or even death.
The following are the names of the original 9 sanitizers on the FDA’s “do-not-use” list:
- All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-002-01)
- Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-007-01)
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-008-04)
- Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-006-01)
- The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-010-10)
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-005-03)
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-009-01)
- CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-003-01)
- Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-001-01)
The list of hand sanitizers to avoid has since expanded to include over 100 brands as the FDA now advises against products that contain a sub-potent amount of the good kinds of alcohol (ethanol and isopropanol) as well. Sanitizers with low concentrations of alcohol are not effective at eliminating pathogens and infections. The agency also discourages purchasing any goods that were made in the same facilities as tainted sanitizers.
With so many new hand sanitizer brands popping up to address the pandemic issue, the agency wants to eliminate as many harmful ones as they can and prevent further complications.
So, how did methanol even get in there?
Well, in order for a hand sanitizer to be effective, it must contain alcohol. Alcohol is the main ingredient in the sanitizer that kills bacteria and viruses on your skin.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically recommend the use of ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol with a concentration between 60% to 95%. If you haven’t heard of either alcohol, then you might have heard them by their other names: ethanol and isopropanol. Beyond those two, other kinds of alcohol may not be effective and may even be toxic, as is the case for methanol.
Methanol is actually a natural byproduct of the alcohol distillation process used to produce hand sanitizers. But manufacturers are supposed to properly remove all traces of the harmful substance before finishing the final product. Those who don’t thoroughly eliminate this type of alcohol run the risk of causing harm.
Some of these alcohol violations may also stem from producers who tried to cut corners and use distilled high-methanol solvents for the base of their product. Either way, this is incredibly dangerous and should be avoided.
Some of these ineffective or toxic sanitizers were previously sold at large retailers such as Costco, Target, Walmart, and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Since these tainted products are already out in the public, it is important that you know the symptoms mentioned above and how to safely dispose of the bottle. The way to properly discard methanol hand sanitizer is to throw them away in a hazardous waste container as the substance is highly flammable. Do not flush the sanitizer down the toilet or pour it down the drain.
For more information on the proper disposal of hazardous wastes, reach out to your local waste management and recycling center.
…What happens now?
Everyone is advised against buying and using methanol-based hand sanitizers. Doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, healthy or sick. But the most vulnerable populations are adults who drink sanitizers as an alcohol substitute and young children who accidentally consume these products. Anyone who has come into contact with methanol-containing hand sanitizer and is experiencing symptoms should immediately contact their healthcare provider and seek medical treatment.
Although there is a hand sanitizer shortage, it’s also in your best interest to avoid making your own hand sanitizer for a number of reasons. Companies like palmpalm are creating safe, great-smelling products so that you don’t have to worry about making them yourself. To make things easier on yourself, check out our store to shop for methanol-free, cruelty-free hand sanitizer and other protective products.
The FDA is actively monitoring the different brands that are coming in and out of the US so that the sanitizers actually do what they’re supposed to: kill germs.
Methanol is often not identified as an ingredient on the product label, which makes it harder to spot. So, try to regularly check the “do-not-use” list to make sure that none of your hand sanitizer products are on the list. If they are, discard them in the appropriate manner as soon as possible.
If anything, make it a habit to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is the most effective to lower your chances of catching or spreading germs. Hand hygiene has always been important but it’s even more important now than ever before.