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Hand sanitizer suspected in three deaths

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Three people have died from methanol poisoning, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind, apparently after drinking hand sanitizer.

The state Department of Health said in a Friday news release that the first case was reported to the New Mexico Poison Control Center on May 7. The other six cases occurred since May 29, according to DOH.

Six of the seven people were from Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties. The residence of the seventh person is unknown to the Poison Control Center.

“If you think you may have used or consumed hand sanitizer containing methanol, please seek medical care,” Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel said in a statement. “An antidote to methanol poisoning is available, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning the better the chance of recovery.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the number of calls to poison centers for exposures to cleaners and disinfectants sharply increased at the beginning of March.

It notes that some adolescents and adults drink such products as an alcohol substitute.

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued an advisory that nine brands of hand sanitizer containing methanol should not be used.

“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,” the CDC said last week. “Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.”

The CDC said young children are particularly susceptible, though anyone who ingests methanol is at risk.

The CDC’s hand sanitizers advisory warned against the use of these products:

• All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-002-01)

• Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-007-01)

• CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-008-04)

• Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-006-01)

• The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-010-10)

• CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-005-03)

• CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-009-01)

• CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-003-01)

• Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-001-01)

The state Department of Health also warns that non-commercially produced hand sanitizer, or “bootlegged” sanitizer, may also contain methanol.

Many distilleries in New Mexico and across the country and the world have re-purposed their operations to produce hand sanitizer since the pandemic started taking hold in the United States in mid-March.

Earlier this month, a distillery in Australia recovered nine bottles of SS Casino Gin after accidently filling them with hand sanitizer containing glycerol and hydrogen peroxide.

In April, President Trump said that injecting disinfectant as a means of combating the coronavirus was an idea that interested him. Medical doctors were quick to denounce the personal use of cleaning products as a deterrent to the virus.

Anyone seeking treatment for methanol poisoning is urged to contact the New Mexico Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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