We Need More Proof

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warnings about some hand sanitizers containing toxic ingredients, such as methanol, which can be deadly.

Well, now the FDA has updated their list of hand sanitizers to avoid by including some that seemingly aren’t deadly enough.

In their most recent release, the agency identified hand sanitizers that may not actually be effective at killing germs. The updated list includes seven hand sanitizers that the FDA said have “concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol,” and accordingly warns consumers to avoid them.

The FDA issued a statement saying, “The agency urges consumers not to use these subpotent products and has expanded its list to include subpotent hand sanitizers, in addition to hand sanitizers that are or may be contaminated with methanol.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol or ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropanol. These are the levels they determined to be the most effective at killing germs, while still being safe on human skin. However, the CDC is also quick to remind consumers that “no drugs, including hand sanitizers, are approved to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Sanitizers that were found to have subpotent levels of ethanol, isopropanol, and/or benzalkonium chloride, another active ingredient, were added to the list of hand sanitizers to avoid. The list now includes about 100 brands and nearly 150 varieties. The FDA has recommended recalls of all those products, as well as import bans on them.

Isopropanol is also known as 2-propanol, and is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers. However, 1-propanol is a toxin that can damage the nervous system and even cause death if absorbed through the skin, consumed or if it comes into contact with a person’s eyes. Unfortunately, the FDA’s list includes four types of sanitizer made by Mexico’s Harmonic Nature that contain 1-propanol.

Most of the problematic brands added to the list were made in Mexico. One brand, Leafree Instant Hand Sanitizer, is from China, and is labeled as “edible alcohol.” However, some domestic brands were also listed, including some manufactured in North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Georgia and Utah.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the use of hand sanitizer has grown tremendously. Unfortunately, there has also been a huge uptick in accidental poisoning, especially among children. According to data from the National Poison Data System, compared to the same time frame last year, through the third week of July this year, there has been a 59% increase in calls to one of the 55 poison control centers around the U.S. due to various incidents involving hand sanitizer. This increase amounts to more than 18,000 cases, and tragically, nearly 12,000 of those cases involved kids ages 5 and younger.

So, like many great tools, hand sanitizer can be extremely dangerous if used incorrectly.

Once again, the complete list of potentially dangerous sanitizers can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-consumers-should-not-use

On the plus side, my body has absorbed so much hand sanitizer in the last 5½ months that now when I pee, I actually clean the toilet.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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