Americans are being warned against drinking hand sanitiser after four people died and others were left with visual impairments as a result of doing so.
At least 15 people from the southern states of Arizona and New Mexico were hospitalised in May and June after ingesting sanitiser that contained methanol, a new report for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.
Each of those affected – 13 men and two women aged between 21 and 65 – suffered from methanol poisoning after ingesting the toxic substance, an ingredient deemed ‘not acceptable’ by the US regulator Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The CDC released a report on Wednesday that detailed each of the 15 cases. The agency warned swallowing alcohol-based products containing methanol can cause life-threatening poisoning, as the substance is toxic when ingested.
While four of the 15 patients died from the poisoning, three were discharged with vision impairment and six patients developed seizures during their hospitalisation.
The report comes a few months after the CDC was made to warn that household cleaners ‘can cause health problems when not used properly’ in April, just one day after US president Donald Trump suggested injecting disinfectant to treat coronavirus – something that led to a spike in calls to hotlines about the substance.
The report said four of the 15 patients were still in hospital as of July 8, and there has been no update on whether they have suffered long-term effects. Survivors of methanol poisoning can experience permanent visual impairment, including complete vision loss.
One case illustrated in the report described a 44-year-old man who was hospitalised after reportedly ‘drinking an unknown quantity of alcohol-based hand sanitiser’. While in hospital, he experienced complicating ‘seizures’ and had to undergo dialysis to clean his blood.
Although he recovered from ‘acute methanol poisoning’ after spending six days in hospital, the 44-year-old was discharged with ‘near-total vision loss’.
Scientists from the CDC said they started investigating the ingestion of hand sanitiser after a national FDA warning about certain products containing methanol prompted a call from health officials in Arizona and New Mexico.
Between May 1 and June 30, there were 62 calls to poison centres across the two states regarding methanol poisoning associated with hand sanitiser. After tracking down those who had been admitted to hospital from drinking the sanitiser, the agency wrote the report to warn others of the dangers.
This article was first published in unilad