15 adults have been hospitalized after drinking methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer. Four died.

More than 100 products have been flagged by the FDA for methanol contamination.
By Kelsie Sandoval

Fifteen adults have been poisoned after drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.

Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a toxic chemical that can lead to hospitalization or death if ingested.

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The Food and Drug Administration first warned of hand sanitizers with possible methanol contamination in June, citing nine products from Mexico. Since then, the list has grown to more than 100. The CDC recommends hand sanitizers that contain either ethanol or isopropanol, which are also alcohols, but not methanol. Hand sanitizer should never be ingested.

The CDC report included 15 cases of methanol poisoning in New Mexico and Arizona that occurred in May and June. The average age was 43, and 13 of the cases were in men. Several of the cases were among American Indians/Alaska Natives, though the report does not detail the exact number. All 15 individuals were hospitalized, and four people died. Another three developed vision problems, a known side effect of methanol poisoning.

All of the cases detailed in the report had had blood tests to confirm the presence of methanol. Additionally, all of the individuals reported past hand sanitizer ingestion.

In one case highlighted in the CDC report, a 44-year-old male sought care after developing vision problems. The man said he had drank an unknown quantity of hand sanitizer in recent days. The man was hospitalized and experienced seizures. He was later discharged with “near-total vision loss,” the report said.

Other individuals sought care because of gastrointestinal or vision problems. Some lost consciousness. One individual sought care because of media reports of methanol-contaminated hand sanitizers.

The report noted that cases of methanol poisoning that occur when someone applies the chemical to skin is rare, though it can occur. Any individuals who have been exposed to hand sanitizers contaminated with methanol should seek medical care immediately if they develop concerning symptoms, the report said.

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