How to Know if Your Hand Sanitizer Is Toxic

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the rules for protecting yourself and others from the coronavirus have been fairly simple: Don't go out if you don't need to, wear a mask or facial covering if you do, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after any likely exposure. On the last point, public health experts have given their blessing to alcohol-based hand sanitizers in a pinch. Sales (and ineffective DIYs) have skyrocketed accordingly.

Unfortunately, not all hand sanitizers are created equal, and the Food and Drug Administration has had its hands full tracking products that range from ineffective against COVID-19 to downright dangerous. This week, the FDA released yet another list of hand sanitizers that can poison users through the skin; all of them contain the alcohol product methanol, which can prove toxic to adults and children. Right now that list contains more than 75 branded products.

"Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death," according to an FDA statement. "Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning."

If you're worried about your own hand sanitizer, the FDA offers a searchable database of products for which it's issued a methanol warning. You can also scroll through an abbreviated list provided by CBS News; it includes brands such as 4E Global, Eskbiochem, Mystic International, and Saniderm.