Toxic hand sanitizer in India


2020-06-27 11:45:00



We all are using hand sanitizers much more than ever before. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent use of sanitizer is recommended by the government itself. But there are some unpleasant news about fake or methanol based hand sanitizer all over the globe.

The CDC’s recommend washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol alcohol or 70% isopropanol. But be careful about which hand sanitizer you put on your pocket. But some manufacturer are using methanol in hand sanitizer. Ethanol and methanol may sound similar and are both colorless liquids. Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, can be toxic if absorbed by the body.

Due to the sudden spurt of demand for hygiene products due to COVID-19 virus pandemic, several manufacturers and marketers in India are now selling hand sanitizers containing ethanol or isopropyl alcohol as an active ingredient. However, regulatory uncertainties, especially surrounding requirement of drug license for stock and sale and scope of price control are becoming roadblocks for businesses from scaling-up operations.

The Central Bureau of Investigation issued an alert to the police in all state and Union territories and other law-enforcement agencies warning them about racketeers selling fake hand sanitiser, manufactured using the highly-toxic methanol. According to the alert issued, the Interpol has found instances in some countries where cases of use of methanol in spurious hand sanitizers have been reported.

A lot of confusion has been prevailing about the sale of hand sanitisers in India, not just among industry stakeholders but also regulatory authorities. Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL)  had written a letter to the Maharashtra FDA informing about the sale of hand sanitisers by grocery shops without holding a sale license. The Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has clarified that hand sanitisers manufactured under allopathic drug manufacturing license should be sold in the licensed selling premises only.

FDA advises consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol (wood alcohol), a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested.

Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidently ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.

Source: FDA, times of India, forbes