WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people are getting sick and even dying from ingesting hand sanitizer. According to data released Wednesday, four people died and others have suffered impaired vision or seizures.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, hand sanitizer has become much more prevalent. It’s great for keeping hands clean, but it’s not safe to swallow.
“Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products should never be ingested,” the CDC said in a new report.
The CDC says some children might drink hand sanitizer by mistake, and some people might incorrectly think it’s a substitute for alcoholic drinks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently put out a warning to be on the lookout for methanol in some hand sanitizers distributed in the U.S.
Unlike ethanol, the alcohol usually used to make hand sanitizer, methanol is toxic and can even poison people through their skin. The FDA has warned against more than 100 hand sanitizer products.
The CDC said 15 adults, ages 21 to 65, in Arizona and New Mexico were hospitalized between May and June for methanol poisoning after consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Four of them died, six developed seizures while in the hospital and three were discharged with new visual impairments.
In July, the FDA continued to warn consumers and health care workers not to use hand sanitizers containing methanol or wood alcohol, another type of substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze that can be toxic.
The agency also placed such products on an “import alert” in an effort to prevent them from entering the United States.
“Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ. Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use, and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizer products,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a news release at the time.
“We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that public health agencies have reminded people not to ingest certain disinfectants or use such products improperly.
In April, just a day after President Trump suggested during a White House briefing that injecting disinfectant might be a possible coronavirus treatment, the CDC posted on Twitter: “Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly. Follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use.”