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FDA Warns Against Using Hand Sanitizers With Toxic Wood Alcohol

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has added more than 30 hand sanitizers to its list of products consumers should avoid using due to potentially toxic ingredients. Specifically, the FDA has warned against using hand sanitizers with wood alcohol, as the substance can cause blindness, hospitalizations, and death when ingested or absorbed through the skin.

"FDA is warning consumers and health care providers that the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination," the agency wrote in a warning updated Wednesday. "Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early symptoms of wood alcohol poisoning include drowsiness, reduced consciousness, confusion, headache, dizziness, and an inability to coordinate muscle movement. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and heart or respiratory failure. Blindness and death can occur, the health agency has warned, adding that anyone with suspected wood alcohol poisoning should seek treatment right away as toxicity worsens over time as methanol causes acid to accumulate in the blood.

On Wednesday, the FDA added 38 new hand sanitizers to its list of hand sanitizers that had tested positive for wood alcohol, been recalled, or were reported to be made in the same facility as a product that tested positive for wood alcohol. The FDA's list has grown from an initial nine hand sanitizers first reported in late June to include an additional 14 in early July. With Wednesday's update it now includes more than 50 hand sanitizers.

"FDA advises consumers not to use hand sanitizers from these companies, or products with these names or NDC numbers," the agency said.

More than two dozen of the hand sanitizers added to the list Wednesday were made and sold by 4E Global, a company based in Mexico, according to the FDA. Those products were noted to include a Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer as well as a variety of hand sanitizers carrying both the Blumen brand and the Assured Instant Hand Sanitizer brand.

The full list of hand sanitizers the FDA recommends avoiding is available here.

The FDA warned that while adults, adolescents, and young children who ingest or drink hand sanitizers with wood alcohol are most at risk for wood alcohol poisoning, anyone who used these products on their hands could be at risk as well. "Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning," the agency said.

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