Minnesota Poison Control System warns of rise in methanol exposure from hand sanitizers

The MinnesotPoison Help Logo-NO FRAME MN_PRINTa Poison Control System is echoing the recent warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the dangers of hand sanitizers containing methanol as they have seen a sharp rise in exposures. Unfortunately, New Mexico is reporting at least 3 deaths related to the ingestion of these products.

“Methanol – also known as wood alcohol – can cause permanent blindness and is life-threatening if it’s ingested,” explains Hennepin Healthcare emergency physician Dr. Travis Olives with the Minnesota Poison Control System. “The FDA has seen a drastic increase in hand sanitizer products labeled as containing ethanol – but they are actually testing positive for methanol contamination.”

Symptoms of methanol poisoning include:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness, confusion, lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision, light sensitivity, double vision

“While it’s important to use sanitizers for hand hygiene, it’s essential that these products are kept out of the sight and reach of young children and that adults always provide supervision during use,” said Dr. Olives.

The FDA posts a methanol-contaminated products list for consumers so they can be aware of and immediately stop using any contaminated products. The risk of poisoning from using hand sanitizer with methanol on skin surfaces is low; however, you should immediately call the Minnesota Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 with the ingestion of any hand sanitizer – whether or not it is known to contain methanol. They are always open and available to answer questions or concerns. Services are free and confidential, and if needed, a specialist will help make a determination if further medical management is required.

The Minnesota Poison Control System provides exposure management with nationally Certified Specialists in Poison Information to provide poison exposure assessment and management techniques to the general public and health care professionals across the state. The services is provided through a national toll-free telephone number accessible by both voice and TTY and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.