FDA hand sanitizer recall widens as coronavirus boosts usage

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration has added three more hand sanitizers to its rolling list of products recalled because of possible contamination with a toxic chemical.

In total, over 65 of the cleansers have now tested positive for methanol, which can be poisonous if absorbed through the skin or ingested, according to the FDA's latest update. A majority of the products appear to have been manufactured in Mexico, with recalls issued by the manufacturer or distributor.

The tainted items have been introduced into the market at a time of heightened risk, with more consumers relying on sanitizers to help insulate themselves from infection with COVID-19, a pandemic disease that has upended the world's economy and forced lockdowns of wide swaths of the U.S.

Demand for the germ-killing potions was so high in March that store shelves across the country were left virtually barren as swarms of people stocked up.

The FDA's continuously-updated list, which climbed to 59 products as of July 12, began in June when the regulator observed an increase in hand sanitizers that purportedly contained ethanol but tested positive for methanol contamination.

The latest additions were tweeted out by the FDA on Wednesday within a one-hour span, less than 24 hours after its previous warning.

AAA Cosmetica's bio aaa Advance Hand Sanitizer and Soluciones Cosmeticas' Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free were voluntarily recalled for "undeclared methanol."

On Tuesday, FDA tweeted that 4e Brands North America issued the same voluntary recall for its Blumen Advanced Hand Sanitizer.

"Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects," the FDA said.

Methanol is a toxic alcohol typically used as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Substantial exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death, according to the FDA. Consumers experiencing symptoms should seek "immediate treatment," the agency said.

FDA’s investigation into the methanol contamination is ongoing. Its full list of recalled products, which will be updated as more information becomes available, can be viewed on the agency's website.

The CDC advises using hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available and says the product must be an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

The best way to prevent the spread of infections is by washing your hands with plain soap and water at least 20 seconds, the CDC said.