4 dead, 3 suffer ‘permanent visual impairment’ after ingesting hand sanitizer
Four people have died while three suffered from “permanent vision impairment” after ingesting methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A total of 15 people were hospitalized from May 1 to June 30 due to methanol poisoning in Arizona and New Mexico, the CDC reported yesterday, Aug. 5.
The report comes as the demand for hand sanitizers and other disinfecting products increases while the world struggles against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should only contain ethanol or isopropanol, although some products that entered the US contain the highly dangerous methanol, or wood alcohol.
“Whereas early clinical effects of methanol and ethanol poisoning are similar (e.g., headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, and decreased level of consciousness), persons with methanol poisoning might develop severe anion-gap metabolic acidosis, seizures, and blindness,” the CDC explained.
The CDC warns, however, that with or without methanol, hand sanitizers are never safe for ingesting as it could lead to severe illness and consequences including death.
All 15 cases were adults with a history of swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer products, according to the CDC. Six of them developed seizures during hospitalization, three of whom were among the four who died.
Among the patients, the CDC highlighted one case of an unidentified 44-year-old man, who admitted that he drank an unknown quantity of hand sanitizer with methanol a few days before seeking medical care.
The man was among those who developed seizures and was discharged from the hospital after six days with “near-total vision loss.”
Those who have been using the said products with methanol should stop using them immediately, the CDC advised. Methanol can be absorbed through the skin, although cases of such poisoning are rare.
Prior to the CDC’s report, the US Food and Drug Administration had already warned citizens about methanol-contaminated hand sanitizers after several brands were discovered to have entered the country.
In the Philippines last December, an outbreak of methanol poisoning was also reported after several people drank lambanog in Quezon province.
At least 14 people died of poisoning, while over 500 individuals were hospitalized. High levels of methanol were found in the said alcoholic drink. /ra
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.