The Postal Service and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are warning employees and customers to be on alert for hand sanitizers that may contain methanol, a dangerous, highly toxic chemical often used as an industrial solvent.
The coronavirus pandemic has spurred demand for hand sanitizer products.
However, the FDA recently warned the public that some retail outlets are selling tainted hand sanitizers that contain methanol. So far, at least 85 hand sanitizer products have been recalled.
If exposed to skin or ingested, methanol — also known as wood alcohol or methyl alcohol — can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system and, in some cases, death.
The FDA advises people to:
• Beware of hand sanitizers that claim they can prevent the spread of viruses or provide 24-hour protection.
• Avoid “FDA-Approved” hand sanitizers because that designation is not granted to hand sanitizer products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent ethanol (the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages) or 70 percent isopropanol (also known as rubbing alcohol), both of which are considered less toxic and highly effective at killing viruses and bacteria.
The Postal Service recently distributed a stand-up talk that highlights this information.
As a commonly used solvent and component of some consumer commodities, methanol is mailable via surface transportation, provided it meets all requirements in Publication 52, Section 343 and Appendix C, Packaging Instruction 3A.
Employees who encounter shippers that may be selling recalled hand sanitizer products containing methanol should report these shipments to the Postal Inspection Service’s hazardous materials program at HAZMAT@uspis.gov for potential follow-up.
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