FDA Warns Against Methanol-based Hand Sanitizers

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AUBURN, Alabama – The United States Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers about the potential presence of methanol, a substance that is potentially dangerous when absorbed through the skin or ingested, in nine hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico.

The nine products manufactured by Eskbiochem, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are:

  • 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)

According to Dr. Marilyn Bulloch, associate clinical professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy Practice, methanol is particularly dangerous because it is quickly distributed throughout the body and can affect almost every organ.

“Most people do not realize that methanol is absorbed through the skin very well,” said Bulloch. “Children, especially infants, are especially at risk because they have differences in absorption compared to adults. Methanol can also be inhaled while it is still wet on the skin, which increases a person’s exposure.”

Many people associate methanol historically with moonshine or homemade alcohol. It is also found in other products, such as industrial chemicals. The FDA contacted Eskbiochem to recommend the company remove its hand sanitizer products from the market due to risks associated with methanol poisoning, but the company has so far not taken action.

“As concerning as any toxic effects is the fact that methanol is just not a good disinfectant,” said Bulloch. “People will have a false sense of security in their hand hygiene but are, in fact, capable of passing on bacteria, viruses and other germs to other people.”

Symptoms of methanol poisoning will vary based on the patient and how it was absorbed. With occasional use, the skin is likely to be irritated while repeated use can cause more severe skin issues such as reddening, scaling, eczema, itching, dryness or swelling.

Depending on how much and how often the methanol was applied to the skin, someone might experience more systemic effects, like feeling or acting as if they are intoxicated. They may also have some blurry vision or other vision changes, headache or nausea/vomiting. More extensive exposure can result in blindness, seizures, coma, or worse.

“If the exposure was mild, people can contact the Poison Control Center for further guidance,” said Bulloch. “If anyone experiences more severe symptoms, or if the hand sanitizer was ingested orally, they should seek emergency care as soon as possible.”

For those who may have hand sanitizer with methanol, it should be disposed of immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour these products down the drain.

As the country continues to live with COVID-19, the FDA reminds people to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the restroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol.

“Proper hand hygiene has always been one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection of any type,” said Bulloch. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work by inactivating organism. There are a few bacteria that only soap and water are effective at removing, but for the majority of pathogens seen out in the community, hand sanitizer is a quick, effective way to remove the germs from the hands.

“By practicing good hand hygiene, we can help minimize the spread of not only COVID-19, but many other things that cause infection. This will be especially important when we get to cold and flu season later on in the year and is a good habit that we should all maintain going forward.”


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. The School’s commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn’s overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: April 6, 2020