Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, health agencies including the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized the importance of keeping hands clean by washing them frequently. Many of the people have chosen to do this with a commercial hand sanitizer which is also highly effective. However, while this method is beneficial and recommended, it is also increasing the cases of hand sanitizer poisoning across the US.
In the past six months, hand sanitizers have become a fundamental part of everyday life due to the constant need for cleaning hands in order to keep the coronavirus away. Not only are most sanitizers effective but are the best alternative to washing hands with water and soap bar or liquid soap for twenty seconds.
Since many people find it difficult to wash hands with soap and water especially in public places, hand sanitizer is often the best and preferred option. Along with suggesting the use of sanitizers, experts also cautioned people to use and keep it with care as it can be poisonous if ingested.
Despite the warnings, the CDC has reported that at least fifteen people have been hospitalized and four have lost their lives after the ingestion of hand sanitizer only in the past two months. Why is sanitizer poisonous and potentially life-threatening?
While hand sanitizers may contain sixty to seventy percent ethanol or isopropyl, they also contain methanol, which is known to be toxic in humans. Any exposure to methanol can lead to an emergency room visit and a stay in the hospital for several days.
Therefore, the ingestion of hand sanitizers that contain methanol can easily cause death. This is also why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of methanol in hand sanitizers and has released a list of brands of sanitizers that are not safe for usage and should not be bought.
Read the list here.
In addition, it should also be noted that even if a person uses a sanitizer only containing isopropyl or ethanol, it should still not be consumed as they are also toxic and life-threatening especially when consumed in high quantities.
Most of the people who passed away or were hospitalized due to consuming hand sanitizers were alcohol addicts in the majority of the cases and were not aware of the toxic ingredients present in the product.
Sanitizers should not be used as an alternative to alcoholic drinks as they have very different compositions than that of a commonly consumed alcohol.
Secondly, there are also a few cases of hand sanitizer poisoning due to accidental ingestion. This is more common in toddlers and very young children. This is why experts have asked people, especially caregivers, parents, and those with pets to store sanitizers in a safe place.
People with children can also reduce the risk of poisoning and ingestion by talking directly to children and informing them about the right way to use a hand sanitizer and the adverse effects of consuming it.
The reported potential negative effects of hand sanitizers do not mean that people should stop carrying and using sanitizers but instead shows that they should be used and kept in a proper manner to avoid damage to the health.