Health

The CDC: Please Stop Drinking Hand Sanitizer. It’s Killing People.

The CDC implored people not to ingest alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol, while noting 15 recent cases in which people were hospitalized after doing so. All of the patients got methanol poisoning, and four patients died.

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Federal health officials are warning the population not to drink hand sanitizer after two states reported several people had died after consuming contaminated disinfectants.  

In a Wednesday statement, the CDC implored people not to ingest alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as well as to avoid all use of any containing methanol. The CDC noted 15 recent cases of people who drank hand sanitizer and were hospitalized with methanol poisoning.

As hand sanitizer use and consumption has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethanol (which is also referred to as ethyl alcohol).

Methanol can be deadly when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Products containing more than 4 percent methanol in the U.S. must be labeled as “poison,” according to Bioenergy International

The cases between May 1 and June 30, 2020 flagged by the CDC were reported in Arizona and New Mexico. In the most severe cases, four patients died, and three were discharged with visual impairment, the CDC said. 

“Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products should never be ingested,” the report stated. “In patients with compatible signs and symptoms or after having swallowed hand sanitizer, prompt evaluation for methanol poisoning is required. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams echoed the CDC’s warnings on Twitter.

“Swallowing hand sanitizers that contain methanol can cause permanent blindness or death, if not treated,” he said. 

In mid-June, the Food and Drug Administration, which approves which hand sanitizers are safe to use, warned consumers of a sharp increase in hand sanitizers that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol), but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. The administration also listed hand sanitizers and manufacturers to avoid.

In April, President Trump floated the concept of coronavirus patients being injected with disinfectant — which health officials vehemently urged against.


“Please do not ingest or inject disinfectant,” orthopaedic surgeon Dr. John Shields tweeted in April. “I feel like one should not have to say this.”