Hand sanitizer

Harmful Hand Sanitizer: Why You Should Check Your Labels Before Cleaning Your Hands

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Products meant to help keep you healthy could actually be toxic.

The FDA is warning consumers about dozens of hand sanitizers imported from Mexico and sold in U.S. stores.

They may contain a dangerous substance, methanol.

It's used to make things like fuel and windshield wiper fluid.

"You work on faith. You think everything that everything you buy is safe to use,” said Mary Lou Foran of Berlin.

But how did those products get onto local store shelves?

In response to the high demand when the pandemic began, the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates hand sanitizer in the U.S., relaxed some of its rules.

"There's less testing of the product. There's less oversight. And because of that, some of these products with dangerous, dangerous ingredients make it onto the market,” said Dr. Suzanne Doyon, the medical director of the CT Poison Control Center.

"There've been deaths from exposure to these hand sanitizers," she added.

Doyon said those deaths were the result of people ingesting the toxic substance.

The FDA said it's also aware of incidents where adults and children have been seriously harmed by absorbing methanol through the skin.

Some of the products have already been recalled, while others have been recommended for recall.

"The list keeps growing and growing and growing," she said.

The FDA’s most recently updated list names about 75 products, all of them made in Mexico.

One brand that appears over and over: Blumen. NBC Connecticut reached out to the company multiple times for comment, but haven’t heard back yet.

Mary Lou Foran bought two bottles of Blumen Hand Sanitizer from BJ’s Wholesale Club. The ingredients list ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. That's what should be in hand sanitizer to kill germs.

"In the very small print on the bottom, it says made in Mexico," said Foran.

And that's what has her concerned. She checked the UPC and lot number of the bottles online. And while they haven't been recalled, she won't be using them.

"I'm not taking any chances. It's going out."

Doyon said that's the best course of action.

But she added, don't panic if you've already used it.

The absorption through normal use on your skin is going to be minimal."

Blumen hand sanitizer was also sold at ShopRite stores in Connecticut.

Both BJ’s and ShopRite have posted information letting customers know how to find out if the product they have has been recalled, and how to return it.

Stop & Shop has pulled another brand of recalled hand sanitizer from their shelves. For a full list, click here.

If ingested in large quantities, hand sanitizer that is not toxic can be deadly.

Doyen said even consuming a fraction of a teaspoon can be harmful to kids.

According to the National Poison Data System, there have been almost 7,000 more hand sanitizer exposure cases reported to poison control centers this year. That’s a 59% increase from last year.

Doyon said recent calls about bleach have been concerning too amidst the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ve heard of people using bleach in their Neti Pots, we’ve heard of people gargling with bleach, or bleach mixed with water, but bleach should not be used in the mouth or in the nose.”

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call Poison Control 1-800-222-1222. If it’s an emergency call 911.

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