Safe v. Toxic Hand Sanitizers

In 2020 and 2021, sales of hand sanitizers rose dramatically — last year by an estimated 600%.

Yet since summer 2020, they’ve been scores of recalls because of products with toxic ingredients.

Instead of containing ethanol as labeled, some contain toxic methanol.

The latter is the simplest form of alcohol with one carbon atom.

Ethanol has two atoms. Cost-wise, it’s marginally more expense than methanol.

When absorbed through skin or if or otherwise ingested, the latter can be life-threatening.

Yet according to CNBC, hand sanitizer products are “flying of shelves” of grocers and pharmacies because of surging demand.

In my residential building, unbranded dispensers are located in common areas for residents to use at their discretion.

I spotted hand sanitizers in doctors’ offices for use by physicians and patients.

One brand I recall is listed below among recommended ones.

Exposure to products with toxins can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, coma, and/or nervous system damage that can cause premature death.

If rub sanitizers with toxins into hands or other skin areas, it amounts to playing Russian roulette with health that may turn out very badly.

Consumers often don’t know which ones are safe, or relatively so, versus toxic ones to avoid because of mislabeling. 

According to HealthyChildren.org:

“Washing hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds is the best way for children to get rid of germs…” 

The above advice applies to everyone in all age groups.

If not readily available, “use (a) hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.” 

“(U)se it with care around children, since swallowing (it accidentally or otherwise) can cause poisoning.”

Keep hand sanitizers where children can’t reach them. Avoid exposure to eyes.

“Many hand sanitizers (contain) alcohol or rubbing alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol, or isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol).”

If ingested, alcohol poisoning symptoms include “loss of balance, sleepiness, low blood sugar, seizures and coma, and it can be fatal.”

Children and adults have been poisoned from use of hand sanitizers that contain methanol (also called wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, or methylated spirits). 

The FDA recalled scores of products containing methanol because of its toxicity if swallowed or from use on skin.

Since widespread use of hand sanitizers began in 2020, the US National Poison Data System reported numerous cases of harm to young children, mostly ones aged-6 or younger.

Health experts recommend using hand sanitizers with from 60 – 95% ethyl alcohol.

If a product label lists alcohol alone, avoid it.

Before buying a product, read the label.

If unclear of its safety from what’s on it, avoid its use.

Hand sanitizers made with isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) can be more toxic if ingested than others made with ethanol or ethyl alcohol.

At home, washing thoroughly with good old soap and water is safest of all to be as germ-free as possible — especially before meals.

According to Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU):

More than 100 hand sanitizers were recalled because of toxic methanol they contain.

Some contain benzene at levels above what’s permitted.

Hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water aren’t readily available.

When buying one, stick with products that have recognizable ingredients like ethyl alcohol, water and glycerin.

Fragrance-free ones are preferable to the other way around.

These hand sanitizers reportedly contain toxic methanol:

All-Clean Hand Sanitizer

Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer

CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol

Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer

The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer

CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol

CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol

Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer

Avoid them and others with this toxic ingredient.

If have one of the above products or another with methanol, dispose of it carefully — ideally in a hazardous waste container.

Don’t pour it down a kitchen or bathroom drain.

BestReviews.com recommends these five brands:

Purell Advance Hand Sanitizer, Refreshing Gel

Germ-X Hand Sanitizer

Bioss Hand Sanitizer

Cetaphil Hand Sanitizer

Nature’s Baby Organics Gentle Hand Sanitizer

Keep hand sanitizers away from extreme temperatures “because the bottle may explode.”

Most products are in gel form. Some are in spray or foam form.

Most active ingredients include: “ethyl alcohol, making up between 60% and 70% of the formula.” 

“Inactive ingredients vary between hand sanitizers, though most contain water, glycerin, acetate, and fragrances.” 

Many also include “moisturizing ingredients in the form of oils, aloe vera, or vitamin E.”

Some are alcohol-free — though they’re not as effective for killing germs and microbes.

Some are plant-based.

For individuals with psoriasis, eczema, or other dermatological issues, it’s best to choose products free of dyes and parabens (chemicals used as preservatives). 

2 thoughts on “Safe v. Toxic Hand Sanitizers

Add yours

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