Hand sanitizer is everywhere. People are still fighting over (and hoarding) it like gold. But whether you wipe, spray, squirt, or pump it out of a gallon jug, you have to read the label past the name of the product. Pay attention to the ingredients.
Because, as of July 17, the FDA has found nearly 60 brands of hand sanitizer that will not only kill viruses—they can kill you.
Let’s just call these methanol-fueled sanitizers overachievers.
Methanol is a natural gas—a nondrinking type of alcohol used, for the most part, to create fuel, solvents, and antifreeze. It’s colorless, volatile, flammable and most importantly, poisonous for human consumption.
“The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death,” the FDA stated in a recent interview with CBS News. The FDA says the most at-risk for poisoning are kids who accidentally ingest them as well as teens and adults who drink them as substitutes for alcohol products. (Methanol has also killed quite a few people when used to produce bootleg liquor, but that’s a story for another day.)
Health care professionals and experts still maintain that washing your hands with soap and water is still the best defense. However, that’s not always possible. When you need to use a hand sanitizer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using ones that contain at least 60% ethanol alcohol. The difference? Ethanol is a starchy, plant-based (corn and sweet potatoes) chemical. Also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol, it is not highly poisonous to humans.
So, no matter how desperate you are for sanitizer or how good of a deal it is, read the label. If you see methanol on the ingredient list, leave it on the shelf and buy a bar of soap. Remember, you want to kill the virus, not you or your loved ones.
If you or someone you know is poisoned, call the American Association of Poison Control Center’s Poison Control Hotline immediately: (800) 222-1222.
Click here for the FDA list of recalled hand sanitizer
Bonus: Do You Use Hand Sanitizer the Right Way? Take this Test From the FDA!
UPDATE AUGUST 4, 2020: The FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizers has now grown to more than 100