Is your hand sanitizer safe for use?
In view of the rapid rise in the sale of hand sanitizers and other disinfection products across the globe due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has released statements regarding the correct use of methanol in sanitization.
The commonly used chemicals in hand sanitizers are denatured ethanol (ethyl alcohol), Isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol (IPA), hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine gluconate, and benzalkonium chloride.
Denatured alcohol is used in the preparation of hand sanitizers to avoid oral consumption.
WHO recommended hand sanitizer formulations
Denaturation of alcohol can be done by mixing specific amounts of IPA, methanol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone with ethanol. This is done to make ethanol less appealing for oral consumption.
As per the WHO guidelines, IPA is the preferred additive for denaturing ethanol. However, it has been found that many brands selling hand sanitizers have been using methanol as an active ingredient (denaturing agent) in the composition. This is of major concern since methanol has been proved to be toxic for human beings.
Most products containing ethanol also contain a little percentage of methanol as it comes as an impurity in the former. However, the USFDA permits products containing only 0.5% methanol as fit for use by lay consumers.
What happens if you consume methanol?
Methanol is alcohol, just like ethanol and IPA. But when absorbed into the human body (orally, by inhalation, or through the skin), methanol produces another chemical called formic acid which is poisonous. The effects of methanol toxicity include (but are not limited to)
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Hallucination and even death
The major concern regarding intake is by children or by adults mixing with alcohol-based beverages.
It is important to understand that any kind of sanitization products like alcohol-based hand sanitizers or hand rubs and surface disinfectants are not meant for oral consumption.
The labels of sanitization products should be checked for methanol content before purchase, especially if intended for home and office use. The Methanol Institute has released a public safety statement “Methanol Safety During the COVID 19 Pandemic” that enlists everything that one needs to know regarding the prevention of methanol toxicity.
Tips for buying the right hand sanitizer
- Always check the list of ingredients for correct additives
- Check the alcohol content (it should be a WHO-approved formulation)
- While buying an ethanol-based hand sanitizer, check which chemical is used for denaturing.
WHO recommends the use of hand sanitizers containing ethanol and IPA for keeping safe from coronavirus and other diseases. It is always advised to consult a doctor or other health authorities to clarify any concern in detail.
- Methanol Institute guidelines
- USFDA release
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
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Disclaimer: Issued in public interest by Axio Biosolutions Private Limited. Kindly check the official guidance on WHO for more information on infection prevention and control of COVID-19.