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Wisconsin Poison Control warns of contaminated hand sanitizer

DHS says these potentially dangerous hand sanitizers have tested positive for methanol contamination.
The FDA is warning consumers the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol but have tested positive for methanol contamination.
The FDA is warning consumers the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol but have tested positive for methanol contamination.(AP Images)
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 12:16 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Be careful with hand sanitizer. Wisconsin health officials are issuing a warning that some hand sanitizers may contain toxic substances that can cause blindness or death.

The use of hand sanitizer is up during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s coincided with an increase of calls to poison centers related to possible toxic alcohol exposures, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

DHS says these potentially dangerous hand sanitizers have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol is also known as “wood alcohol.” It can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested.

In New Mexico, three people died due to ingestion of methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer. One person was blinded.

“Hand sanitizer is great to use when soap and water aren’t available, but frequent, thorough handwashing is the best way to prevent spreading viruses like COVID-19,” said Stephanie Smiley, interim State Health Officer. “If you must use hand sanitizer, be sure to avoid any products on the The Food and Drug Administration’s list of hand sanitizers that have been recalled.”

CLICK HERE for the FDA list of hand sanitizers to avoid.

Wisconsin Poison Center recommends these safety tips:

  • Use only as directed on hands. The accidental ingestion of even a relatively small amount of methanol by children may pose a serious poisoning risk. Symptoms of methanol poisoning are nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.
  • There is concern for poisoning related to the most common ingredient in hand sanitizers, ethyl alcohol. These products typically contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, a stronger concentration than most hard liquors. A child ingesting any more than a lick or a taste of this product could be at risk for alcohol poisoning. Ingestion of as little as an ounce or two could be fatal in a small child.
  • If you or a child accidentally swallows hand sanitizer, call the Wisconsin Poison Center right away. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Call the Poison Center at 800-222-1222 anytime day or night.

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