July 16, 2020

FDA Warning: Hand Sanitizers Containing Methanol


On July 2, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that there has been a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products labeled to contain ethanol (a.k.a. ethyl alcohol) but have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and toxic or life-threatening when ingested.

Understanding the Risk

Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic side effects. The FDA is aware of instances where adults and children ingested contaminated hand sanitizers that have led to blindness, hospitalization, and death. The FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is still ongoing.

Risks are especially high for young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute. Please do not ingest any type of hand sanitizer, regardless of whether or not it is contaminated with methanol.

Receiving Medical Attention

Individuals exposed to hand sanitizers containing methanol who are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential methanol poisoning. Substantial exposure to methanol can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, or death.

If you need to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of hand sanitizers, contact the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or through a printable form that can be submitted via fax at 1.800.332.0178.

More Information

A list of hand sanitizer products to avoid can be found on the FDA website. For more information, see the full update.