US COPD Coalition

Serious Adverse Health Events Associated with Methanol-based Hand Sanitizers


The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory warning against using methanol-based hand sanitizers. An excerpt of the warning states:

Most commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs (ABHSR) contain either ethanol or isopropanol as active ingredients. On June 19, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by “Eskbiochem SA de CV” in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol, a “toxic alcohol”, as an active ingredient, which can cause blindness and/or death when absorbed through the skin or when swallowed. 

Hand hygiene is an important part of the response to the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States. Practicing hand hygiene, which includes using ABHSR, is a simple and effective way to decrease the spread of pathogens and infections. Commercially available ABHSR usually contain either ethanol or isopropanol. However, some ABHSR that were manufactured in Mexico have been found to contain a significant amount of methanol. Repeated use of these products on the skin may result in methanol poisoning…The clinical effects of methanol and ethanol poisoning are similar (e.g., headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, and decreased level of consciousness), but methanol poisoning may result in severe metabolic acidosis and blindness, and can be fatal if untreated.

Recommendations for the Public

  1. Seek immediate medical attention if you have swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitizer or rub or are experiencing symptoms from repeated use of these products on your skin and contact your poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice. Signs and symptoms include headache, blurred vision or blindness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, and decreased alertness.
  2. Do not swallow any alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs. These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and can lead to serious health issues, including death.
  3. Only use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs for their intended purpose – to clean hands.
  4. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs out of reach of children and supervise their use.
  5. Check your hand sanitizer products against the “FDA’s testing and manufacturer’s recalls” list ( icon). If your product is on this list, stop using the product and dispose of it immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers; do not flush or pour them down the drain.