Americans are being warned against drinking hand sanitiser after four people died and others were left with visual impairments.
A total of 15 people – 13 men and two women – were admitted to hospital after ingesting sanitiser in the southern states of Arizona and New Mexico in May and June, a new report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
All of them, aged 21 to 65, had drunk hand sanitiser containing methanol, an ingredient deemed “not acceptable” by the US regulator Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reports Sky News.
Four people out of the 15 died, three left hospital with new visual impairments and six had seizures as they were admitted – including three of those who died.
The report said four of the patients were still in hospital as of July 8, so there is no update on whether they have suffered long-term effects.
One of the patients was a 44-year-old man who had gone to a doctor because he was experiencing sudden visual impairment.
The report said he had drunk “an unknown quantity of alcohol-based hand sanitiser during the few days before seeking medical care”.
He had high methanol levels in his blood and while in hospital experienced seizures and had to undergo dialysis to clean his blood.
The man recovered from “acute methanol poisoning” after six days in hospital but was left with “near-total vision loss”.
Scientists from the CDC said they started investigating the ingestion of hand sanitiser after a national FDA warning about certain hand sanitisers containing methanol prompted a call from health officials in Arizona and New Mexico.
There were 62 calls to poison centres in the two states from May 1 to June 30 regarding methanol poisoning associated with hand sanitiser.
After tracking down the 15 people who had been admitted to hospital from drinking the sanitiser, they wrote the report to warn others of the dangers.
Visual disturbances, gastrointestinal complaints, seizures, altered mental status and shortness of breath were all reasons why the patients first went to a doctor, but one was bitten by a dog and another asked for a blood test after seeing the news about methanol.
The report said the FDA is investigating hand sanitisers containing methanol and, as of July 15, had identified 67 products which are being recalled.
It warned: “Severe methanol poisoning resulting in permanent disability or death can occur after swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing methanol.”
People should never ingest alcohol-based hand sanitiser products, the report said as it called on all states’ health departments to contact poison centres to identify cases of methanol poisoning.
The public has also been urged to check their hand sanitiser does not contain methanol, using the FDA website.
If it does, it should be disposed of in hazardous waste containers and not flushed down the toilet or poured down a drain.
In April, the CDC warned household cleaners “can cause health problems when not used properly”, a day after President Donald Trump suggested injecting disinfectant to treat coronavirus.