Fifteen adults were poisoned after drinking a hand sanitizer containing methanol, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday.
Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a toxic chemical that can cause hospitalization or death if swallowed.
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The Food and Drug Administration first warned of hand sanitizers with possible methanol contamination in June, citing nine products from Mexico. The list has since grown to 115. The CDC recommends hand sanitizers that contain ethanol or isopropanol, which are also alcohols, but not methanol. Hand sanitizer should never be ingested.
The CDC report included 15 cases of methanol poisoning in New Mexico and Arizona that occurred in May and June. The average age was 43 years and 13 of the cases involved men. Several of the cases involved American Indian / Alaska Natives, although the report does not detail the exact number. All 15 people were hospitalized and four people died. Three others developed vision problems, a known side effect of methanol poisoning.
All of the cases detailed in the report had blood tests to confirm the presence of methanol. In addition, all people reported a previous ingestion of hand sanitizer.
In one case highlighted in the CDC report, a 44-year-old man sought care after developing vision problems. The man said he had drunk an unknown amount of hand sanitizer in recent days. The man was hospitalized and had convulsions. He was later released with “almost complete vision loss,” the report said.
Others have sought care because of gastrointestinal or visual problems. Some have lost consciousness. One person sought treatment because of media reports of hand sanitizers contaminated with methanol.
The report noted that cases of methanol poisoning that occur when someone applies the chemical to the skin are rare, although it can happen. Anyone who has been exposed to hand sanitizers contaminated with methanol should seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms of concern, according to the report.
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