(NBC News) — The Food and Drug Administration has expanded the list of hand sanitizers — some sold at Walmart, Costco and other national chains — being recalled to at least 75 recently, saying toxic levels of wood alcohol in them can cause injury or death.
The FDA said that there has been an increase in hand sanitizers that are labeled to contain ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, but have tested positive for methanol, or wood alcohol.
If methanol is absorbed through the skin, it can cause blindness and hospitalizations, or death if ingested.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials have continuously urged Americans to wash their hands for 20 seconds at a time or to use hand sanitizer to protect against exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease.
The demand for hand sanitizer has surged and questionable new brands have made their way to store shelves across the United States, most imported from Mexico.
“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,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement July 2.
Peter Pitts, former FDA associate commissioner and president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, said selling these hand sanitizers is “like selling an unapproved drug.”
The products wind up on store shelves because companies are skirting around the usual steps that ensure product safety, he said.