Federal regulators are warning consumers that hand sanitizer imported from Mexico could potentially be contaminated with dangerous chemicals such as methanol. According to a USA Today news report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the warning amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has dramatically increased the demand for hand sanitizers.
The FDA said it is applying an “import alert” to all alcohol-based hand sanitizers from Mexico to stop products that violate safety standards from entering the United States until the agency is able to determine whether or not these products are safe. The alert comes after the agency identified last year that there is a sharp increase in sanitizer from Mexico that tested positive for methanol. In 2020, the agency flagged more than 130 potentially dangerous or ineffective sanitizers that have crowded the market since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is Methanol Dangerous?
Methanol or wood alcohol can be toxic when it is absorbed through the skin and could be life-threatening when it is consumed. The import alert helps the agency to apply heightened scrutiny to hand sanitizers imported from Mexico. This is the first time the FDA has issued a countrywide import alert for any category of a drug product. The agency has also said that hand sanitizers contaminated with methanol have been blamed for causing blindness, cardiac issues, harmful effects on the central nervous system, hospitalization, and even death.
Symptoms of methanol exposure typically include vomiting, nausea, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures and coma. While using hand sanitizer contaminated with methanol on your hands may not poison you, ingesting it will certainly do so. Young children who ingest these products and people who drink these products as a substitute for alcohol are most at risk, FDA officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising consumers to use hand sanitizer only when soap is not available. Consumers should look for products that are alcohol-based and contain at least 60% of alcohol. The best way to prevent the spread of infections is to wash your hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds, health officials say.
If You Have Been Affected
Exposure to toxic substances like methanol is a serious concern with these hand sanitizers especially at a time when everyone, from average consumers to front-line healthcare workers, is using hand sanitizers frequently to help curb the spread of the virus. If you or a loved one has suffered adverse health effects as a result of these products, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, permanent injuries and pain and suffering. An experienced product defect lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.