The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic sent the global population into a frenzy—germs were perceived as the biggest threat and harbinger of illness, even death. With these fears surmounting, millions of Americans took to the stores, stocking up on cleaning solution and hand sanitizer. So much of these products were purchased that a shortage arose, leading factories unexperienced in production of hand sanitizer switched their production chain to accommodate the surge in demand. For instance, factories typically used to create perfume switched to production of hand sanitizer.
The ramping up of production eased the shortage problem, alleviating many concerns about safety amidst the pandemic. However, these feelings of comfort have soon been put to the wayside as it has been revealed that over 75 brands of hand sanitizer contain harmful ingredients. Companies such as Walmart and Costco have sold hand sanitizer that contains the harmful chemical wood alcohol. Wood alcohol, or methanol, is an incredibly toxic substance that can be absorbed through the skin, leading to blindness and in some cases even death. The compound which should be present in hand sanitizer, ethanoyl, has been swapped out as the demand for hand sanitizer skyrocketed. Experts believe that the change in ingredients has led to ten deaths and dozens of hospitalizations in New Mexico and Arizona.
The FDA commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, announced in a July 2nd statement that “unfortunately, there are some companies taking advantage of the increased usage of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk by selling products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients. Consumers and health care providers should not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers.”
But how is the average consumer to know what products they are safe to purchase? The list of products not to purchase includes: Blumen, Assured Aloe, and KLAR and DANVER. The complete list of hand sanitizers consumers should avoid is posted on the FDA’s website at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol. The FDA continues to say that individuals should not purchase hand sanitizers with the label “Made in Mexico” or” Produced by: Eskbiochem SA de CV”. With these considerations in mind, the average consumer should not be too concerned. Exercising caution and checking the bottle of hand sanitizer for ingredient lists and avoiding the aforementioned labels is a satisfactory way to avoid unnecessary injury.
With a pandemic continuing on, the need for sanitation remains at an all time high. It is disheartening to observe certain companies exploiting consumers in a dangerous way and serves as a reminder that in times such as now, unity and collaboration should be emphasized over profits.