Physician Practice

Serious adverse health events associated with methanol in some alcohol-based hand sanitizers

Medical Environment Update, August 27, 2020

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by Marge McFarlane, PhD, MT(ASCP), CHSP, CHFP, CJCP, HEM, MEP

Hand hygiene is a critical part of the response to the emergence of COVID-19 as well as day-to-day infection prevention. It is a simple and effective way to decrease the spread of pathogens and infections. A common hand hygiene product is alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS). Commercially available ABHS usually contains either 60% or more ethanol (grain or “drinking” alcohol) or 70% or more isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). And in response to the demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, production and sales of ABHS have skyrocketed.

However, the FDA warns that some ABHS manufactured in Mexico has been found to contain methanol (wood alcohol)—which is toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested, and can cause permanent blindness and death in its victims.

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