Hand sanitizer poisoning during coronavirus surges, calls to poison control up 70%

An alarming number of Americans have been exposed to toxic chemicals in hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Calls to poison control centers about hand sanitizers have surged 70 percent, according to new data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Cases between Jan. 1 and Aug. 2 were 21,074 — up from 12,426 in the same time frame in 2019.

Calls to poison control centers about hand sanitizer poisoning are up. 

And as the number of coronavirus cases continues to spike across the country, potential hand sanitizer poisoning cases peaked in mid-July, with nearly 300 phone calls made in a day at 55 poison control centers across the country, the American Association of Poison Control Centers data shows. There were 5,097 calls made in July compared to 1,529 during the same time one year ago. What’s worse, 12,000 cases reported were among children age 5 or younger.

THE FDA NOW INCLUDES 75 ‘TOXIC’ HAND SANITIZERS ON ITS LIST OF PRODUCTS TO AVOID

One major problem poison control centers noted is consumers are using hand sanitizers that are too highly concentrated with methanol, which can be toxic when consumed or absorbed through the skin. Sanitizers become harmful when they contain too much methanol and not enough ethyl alcohol (the main ingredient that can kill germs and viruses), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July put out a public warning about methanol-contaminated hand sanitizers.

“If soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol (also referred to as ethyl alcohol),” the FDA advises on its website.

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People exposed to high doses of methanol may exhibit symptoms of headache, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, and in more severe cases, permanent blindness and seizures. The poisoning can occur on the skin and when consumed, the latter of which is one of the biggest risks among children.

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You can find the FDA’s list of hand sanitizers to avoid here.