The public is being urged not to use hand sanitisers made by a particular company because they contain an ingredient that can be deadly.
The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an official warning about nine products made by Mexican company Eskbiochem after methanol was found in them.
Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is typically used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze. Unlike ethanol, the alcohol typically used in hand sanitisers, methanol is poisonous when ingested or even when it’s absorbed through the skin.
The human body metabolises methanol into a compound called formic acid which is toxic to cells. Ingesting as little as 30ml can be deadly for a child, while between 60ml and 240ml can kill an adult.
Exposure to methanol can result in nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurry vision and seizures, as well as permanent blindness or damage to the nervous system. In some cases it can also cause coma or even death, the FDA said.
The greatest risk of methanol poisoning occurs when people drink it, either accidentally or intentionally as an alcohol substitute.
The FDA’s warning applies to nine products: All-Clean Hand Sanitizer, Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer, CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer, The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer, Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer and three varieties of CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer.
Customers who have bought these products should not use them and should dispose of them immediately, while anyone who has already used them should seek immediate medical attention to reverse the potentially deadly effects of methanol poisoning.
Eskbiochem has been asked by the FDA to remove the products from the market but the company has not yet taken any action.
There have been no reports of illness connected to the products.
Hand sanitisers should contain ethanol, isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient, Live Science reports.
The products have been flying off shelves around the world since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early January, with many UK pharmacies and supermarkets running out of supplies.
Shops have limited hand sanitiser sales per customer in an effort to ensure there’s enough for everyone.