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Hand sanitizers

Alcohol (called “ethyl alcohol” on the back label) is different than methanol. Alcohol is good in hand sanitizers; methanol is bad.

COVID19 has a protective layer around it. Alcohol dissolves this outer layer of proteins and disrupts COVID19’s metabolism. This is good.

Methanol is a wood alcohol, which is typically used industrially as a solvent, pesticide and alternative fuel source. Methanol can also dissolve COVID19’s protective layer. BUT when methanol is absorbed through the skin it causes toxic effects: nausea, vomiting, headaches, blindness, seizures, hospitalizations, and death. Methanol should NOT be in hand sanitizers. However, lately, the FDA has found 115 hand sanitizers in the US to contain methanol (see link below for list).

The CDC just published a case study in Arizona and New Mexico, which shows the negative impact of ingesting methanol-based hand sanitizers.


Other tips:

• I can’t believe we have to say this, but please do not drink any hand sanitizers (and especially those with methanol)

• The FDA does not “approve” hand sanitizers. So, anything that says “FDA approved” should not be trusted

• Hand sanitizers can have less than 60% alcohol, so double check this number before buying. If something is labeled as 15%, this is the same thing as putting water on your hands.

• Some hand sanitizers are sold with false information, like “prolonged protection (up to 24-hours)”. This is an unproven claim. Do not believe it.

• After multiple uses, you can start diminishing the effectiveness of hand sanitizer (please use soap and water when you can)

• Hand sanitizers do expire (3 years after manufacture date)

Love, your local epidemiologist

Data Sources: CDC figure and study
The FDA list of methanol hand sanitizers can be found here. Here is the Spanish version.

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