Over the past few months, manufacturers have struggled to keep up with an increase in demand for products containing at least 60% of alcohol. To solve the problem, many turned to alternative forms of alcohol, which caused many consumers to speculate about the changing smells of hand sanitizers.

Many of these alternative forms of alcohol received approval from regulating authorities. However, the FDA now warns against hand sanitizers that contain methanol.

Why methanol poses a risk

Scientists refer to methanol as wood alcohol. When absorbed into the skin, it may prove toxic to humans. Matters become even more complicated for individuals who may deliberately or accidentally ingest the product. Accidental ingestion may occur when someone uses the product before eating and then begin to eat bread or even lick his or her fingers.

Side effects of substantial exposure include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Permanent loss of vision
  • Permanent damage to the nervous system
  • Death

What to do after use

People who came into contact with methanol-based hand sanitizers should seek immediate medical treatment. The FDA warns that doing so plays a crucial role in reversing some of the potential effects of methanol on the human body. Note that children tend to face much higher risks than adults when exposed to methanol.

The New York Times explains that methanol-based hand sanitizers tend to come from one or two Mexican manufacturers. Scientists recommend that people wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds prior to eating a meal whenever possible, to reduce reliance on hand sanitizers.