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US health officials are still having to verbalize what most would think is only too obvious: don’t drink hand sanitizer.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) said this week four people have died from consuming hand sanitizers.

Via iStockphoto

At least 15 adults had also been poisoned in Arizona and New Mexico after ingesting it, with some continuing to have vision problems and other devastating lingering effects.

Of note is that in all cases of fatalities, the hand sanitizers contained methanol, or wood alcohol, which is a dangerous substitute for the legitimate germ killing ingredient of ethyl alcohol. Methanol is actually a key ingredient in antifreeze.

Somehow they thought this was a extra precaution toward disinfecting themselves, apparently. 

Last week the US Food and Drug Administration greatly expanded its list of potentially harmful and danterous hand sanitizers, which is at a whopping 100+


  1. Shades of dummies drinking Sterno.

    Methanol is bad stuff. Very bad. It doesn’t take much to cause blindness – as little as one tablespoon (about 15 mL) can cause blindness. Most people don’t stop with one tablespoon.

    It decomposes into formic acid in the body, which then attacks the optic nerve – and this usually cannot be reversed. Methanol can be absorbed through the skin as well as be ingested, so the inclusion into hand sanitizer is a very bad deal even if people don’t drink it.

    Interestingly, one of the emergency antidotes for methanol consumption is to consume ethanol. It dilutes the methanol and helps get it out of the body. There are better solutions, but methanol attacks quickly, and ER docs might not have other alternatives.

    Most modern engine antifreezes contain either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol – these are longer-chain alcohols. Ethylene glycol is toxic, and it breaks down to oxalic acid, which will attack the CNS and then toast most mammals’ kidneys. The major danger in ethylene glycol is that it has a sweet taste, which can cause animals and children to drink it. A favorite way to get rid of raccoons in the midwest is to leave a pan of ethylene glycol out for them to find. A week later, no more raccoon(s).

    Propylene glycol is safe – safe enough that it is used in RV antifreeze for the domestic water tanks/pumps and even in medical solutions. One such medical application is colonoscopy prep. You get a solution of propylene glycol to drink, and then you drink a couple quarts of water. Then, my advice is that you never be more than 10′ from a toilet. When it is done whipping through your GI tract, you will be so clean you that you can feel wind howl through your intestines.

    • My wife came home from the Indian store once years ago with a small bottle labeled “Kewra Water (propylene glycol)”. She said it was for a recipe!

      Well, I did some Googling and found out that I had propylene glycol confused with ethylene glycol. If memory serves, the FDA says propylene glycol is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

      One of the things I’ve learned since the start of the Covid crisis is that methanol can be absorbed through the skin. Fortunately I learned it through reading and not the hard way!

  2. New Mexico has a serious problem with alcoholism. My guess is, the people drinking this stuff were not trying to sanitize their insides.

    Last I checked, most if not all of the hand sanitizer containing methanol was coming from Mexico, fwiw, not China … which I admit surprised me a bit.


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