Do you know about methanol-free hand sanitizers? Yep, it's important; as if the COVID Pandemic was not enough, we now have the worry of whether there is methanol in the hand sanitizers we trust. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are part of the new normal to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus but who thinks about the type of alcohol in their product? Well, we need to and I'll explain why.
You need to know if your hand sanitizer contains methanol because methanol, a type of alcohol, is toxic.
The FDA has recently warned us that methanol is present in some hand sanitizers and you need to avoid those. Methanol is toxic and can be absorbed through skin - like when you use your hand sanitizer.
What are the symptoms of methanol toxicity from using methanol hand sanitizers:
- blurred vision,
- permanent blindness,
- permanent damage to the nervous system
The bottom line is that methanol can be absorbed through skin, it is toxic, it's even life-threatening, and it should NOT be in your hand sanitizer. - Dr. Bailey
The FDA is also warning us that,
children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol ... has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.
Anyone using methanol hand sanitizers is at risk though the biggest risk for methanol toxicity comes from ingesting the products – meaning don’t drink hand sanitizer and keep an eye on children around hand sanitizers. As a new grandmother of a toddler, I am again reminded how quickly these precious young ones put things in their mouth! We need to be sure the hand sanitizers in our homes are methanol-free!
What is methanol?
- Methanol is an alcohol that is also called wood alcohol and methyl alcohol.
- It comes from living things, including fossil fuels.
- Methanol is a widely used and versatile alcohol with many uses including as a fuel, and ingredient in solvents and antifreeze.
- Fruits and veggies contain minute and harmless amounts – adulterated hand sanitizer is another issue.
- It is poisonous to humans and should not be ingested.
Even worse, hand sanitizing products claiming to contain ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol) have tested positive for methanol!
This means that you can't even entirely trust the labels!!
But, wait there’s more……
You also need to know about 1-propanol in hand sanitizers
- 1-propanol contamination is another toxic ingredient to avoid. It should not be in your hand sanitizer.
- This is even more confusing than methanol because 2-propanol is actually OK (2-propanol is also called isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol). Thus 2-propanol is OK, 1-propanol is NOT.
What are the toxic side effects of 1-propanol in hand sanitizers?
It is a central nervous system depressant much more potent than 'recreational' alcohol and side effects include:
- Decreased consciousness
- Slowed pulse and breathing
For the FDA’s very long list of hand sanitizers found to contain methanol and 1-propanol click here
What to do about hand hygiene during COVID?
- The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water as your first choice for decontaminating them.
- If soap and water are unavailable, use a 60% or higher ethanol containing hand sanitizer. (Ethanol is also called ethyl alcohol)
Beware because labels are not telling the truth so trust your source as being reputable and honest.
What do I recommend as a physician, dermatologist, mother and grandmother?
I know that my alcohol-containing Cleansing Hand Rub is made with corn derived ethanol that is denatured, meaning it includes an ingredient that makes it really bitter so that no one (aka beloved toddler) is tempted to drink it. This is a safety step because otherwise this would be a very strong alcoholic beverage.
I use the WHO formula that includes 80% ethanol, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. This is a simple and hypoallergenic formula less likely to cause skin side effects such as hand eczema.
Still, repeated exposure of your hand skin to alcohol during the day will definitely damage your skin barrier.
I recommend washing with soap and warm water and applying a hand cream in place of alcohol hand sanitizers when possible.
My Clean and Healthy Hand Care Kit is designed to ‘get us through to the other side’ safely and minus the hand eczema and chapping. In the kit I provide:
- Two bottles of my All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap (certified organic, fragrance free, gentle on skin but not on germs)
- Two pocket sized spritz bottles of my alcohol containing (methanol-free and 1-proponol-free) Cleansing Hand Rub, and
- One Dry Skin Hand Cream.
Keep the Foaming Hand Soap next to your sinks, the Hand Cream next to the sink you use the most (to conveniently apply it a few times a day after handwashing) and the Hand Rubs in purse and pocket. I think this Kit makes a thoughtful gift and is most definitely good self-care for our own busy hands as we try to navigate the ‘new normal’ during the COVID Pandemic.