The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to global devastation, with to more than 667,000 deaths linked to the virus worldwide as of late July. Many people are taking necessary precautions to keep the disease at bay, including supporting their immunity, frequent hand-washing, and social distancing measures. But one unfortunate and deadly side effect is actually linked to one thing meant to save us: hand sanitizer.
Experts around the globe have encouraged people to wash their hands as frequently as possible as the pandemic continues, and many people, shops, and restaurants have begun to rely on hand sanitizer to keep from spreading the virus. But worldwide shortages of top hand sanitizer brands have led many people to make their own or buy off-brand options that could be more trouble than they're worth, especially as these sanitizers might contain potentially deadly ingredients.
The main FDA-approved ingredient for hand sanitizer is ethyl alcohol, also called ethanol. This alcohol is found in alcoholic beverages and is safe to use on hands. But products made instead with methanol, a toxic substance when ingested or absorbed through the skin, have contributed to illness, blindness, or even death. Since May, the Arizona Republic reports, four people have been killed and 26 hospitalized in Arizona alone; these and similar cases have led the FDA to ban 76 hand sanitizers from the marketplace.
"Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects," the FDA said.
The FDA first warned about these sanitizers in June and is currently maintaining a list of unacceptable or dangerous products. Most of the banned products appear to have originated in Mexico, reports USA Today, though at least one was made in a U.S. distillery in Tennessee, where it was not only sold in bulk but also distributed for free to first responders in the area.
When choosing hand sanitizer for your family, look for products containing ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Stay away from methanol-containing products and from any hand sanitizer on the FDA's list.
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