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What’s Going On with the FDA’s Hand Sanitizer Recalls?

In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged Americans to wash their hands regularly – and to use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Naturally, this has led to an increased demand for hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are creating their products correctly.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled more than 75 hand sanitizer products, advising consumers not to use them, and encouraging them to report adverse events. According to a July 2 press release:

The agency has seen an increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination.”

Methanol is a substance used in the creation of fuel and antifreeze products that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested.

The FDA is aware of adults and children suffering blindness, hospitalizations, and death as a result of these contaminated hand sanitizers.

Which Products Are Affected?

In late June, the FDA asked consumers not to use hand sanitizer products manufactured by Eskbiochem. Since then, the list of recalled products has expanded to include more than 75 hand sanitizers (as of 7/21/20).

You can view a complete, searchable, and regularly updated list as part of the “FDA Update on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol.”

What Are the Symptoms of Methanol Poisoning?

Signs of methanol poisoning become apparent after 1 to 72 hours of exposure. Because methanol’s toxicity gets more intense when the substance is metabolized, symptoms may get worse over time.

If you experience any of the symptoms below after using a contaminated hand sanitizer, call Poison Control Centers at (800) 222-1222 and seek medical attention immediately.

Initial symptoms of methanol poisoning include:

  • Drowsiness
  • A reduced level of consciousness (central nervous system depression)
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination (ataxia)
  • Skin and eye irritation, redness, and pain

Other adverse health effects related to methanol exposure include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Liver function abnormalities
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Kidney failure
  • Blood in the urine
  • Heart and respiratory failure
  • Agitation
  • Acute mania
  • Amnesia
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Fixed dilated pupils
  • Partial to total loss of vision
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Heavy breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Anyone who uses contaminated hand sanitizer is at risk of methanol poisoning, but the FDA affirms:

young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol substitute are most at risk.”

The agency is especially concerned with products packaged to appear as drinks, candy, or liquor bottles and reminds consumers to avoid drinking any hand sanitizer under any conditions.

What To Do If You Have Been Exposed to Methanol

If you have one of the products listed by the FDA, stop using it. If you are concerned about methanol exposure or if you or someone you know consumes contaminated hand sanitizer, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers or get help online. If an individual has collapsed, had a seizure, or has trouble breathing or can’t be awakened, call 911 immediately.

Once you have received the care you need, you should report your experience to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. You may also want to pursue legal action against the negligent manufacturers responsible for your suffering.

May, Rammell & Wells can help you understand your legal options. Our attorneys have more than 70 years of combined experience with product liability claims, and we will fight hard for the justice you deserve.

Call us at (208) 623-8021 or contact us online to get started with a free consultation today.


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