The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on potentially dangerous hand sanitizers being imported to the United States.
Last week, the FDA issued an import alert on alcohol-based hand sanitizers from Mexico. This action allows the FDA to detain shipments of hand sanitizers and subject them to more inspection.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have used hand sanitizers at record levels. The FDA said in a press release that it has noted a sharp increase in hand sanitizers imported from Mexico that may contain dangerous ingredients or be ineffective.
“Consumer use of hand sanitizers has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when soap and water are not accessible, and the availability of poor-quality products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients will not be tolerated,” said Dr. Judy McMeekin, FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in a press release. “Today’s actions are necessary to protect the safe supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.”
Between April and December of 2020, 84 percent of hand sanitizers from Mexico that the FDA analyzed did not comply with FDA regulations. More than 50 percent of these samples contained dangerous ingredients like methanol.
Methanol — or wood alcohol — is often used to make fuel and antifreeze. It is an unacceptable ingredient to use in hand sanitizer, the FDA said. That’s because it can be toxic when ingested or absorbed through the skin.
In high amounts, methanol exposure can lead to nausea, vomiting, headache and blurred vision. It can also lead to permanent blindness, seizures, coma and permanent damage to the nervous system. Young children face an even higher risk because they may accidentally ingest these products.
Methanol does not appear on the labels for these hand sanitizers in most cases, the FDA noted.
While the agency is reviewing hand sanitizers that could contain harmful ingredients, it continues to add to its list of hand sanitizers not to use. If you are concerned about the risks of methanol exposure from hand sanitizer or believe you have been exposed and are experiencing symptoms, seek medical guidance.
If you experience any problem with hand sanitizer, consider reporting it to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.