How to Avoid Products with Methanol Contamination

Note: Chemtronics does not manufacture or sell hand sanitizer, but offers alcohol-based products that are commonly used for surface cleaning.

The FDA has issued a warning about methanol contamination in over 75 different hand sanitizers on the market. Methanol is a toxic alcohol that can contaminate other safer alcohols commonly used for disinfecting hard surfaces: ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol) and isopropanol (aka isopropyl alcohol, IPA). 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the new coronavirus called SARS-COV-2, the CDC (Center of Disease Control) recommended, among other things, 70% or higher alcohol be used to kill the virus (see linked references in sources below). That has led to increased demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizers and surface cleaners and an influx of questionable products.

 

What is Methanol?

Methanol is often called “wood alcohol” because it was originally derived from the distillation and fermentation of sugars in wood. Chemically, methanol is very similar to ethanol (“grain alcohol” – more on that below), but those difference are enough to make methanol considerably more toxic. There are appropriate uses for methanol, for example in industrial products where appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment) is used.

The FDA warns that when ingested or absorbed through the skin, methanol has been shown to cause health problems “including blindness, cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system, and hospitalizations and death…”. Methanol can also cause other toxic chemicals to be more readily absorbed through the skin.

 

How to Identify and Avoid Contaminated Products?

If a product is inadvertently contaminated, the SDS (safety data sheet) or label may not be much of an assurance. If buying a reputable brand from a reputable source (which assures it isn’t counterfeit), there are several ways to identify methanol:

  1. Ingredients on the product label should state “methanol”, “methyl alcohol” or CAS number 67-56-1.
  2. If in a commercial product, the label and SDS should have the GHS (global harmonized system) pictogram for chronic toxicity.
  3. If sold in California, the product label should have the Prop65 symbol and warning.


WARNING: This product contains methanol a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Avoid hand sanitizer with these markings. If methanol is present in a cleaner or another type of commercial product, use the appropriate PPE as specified by a health and safety professional and/or the SDS.

Chemtronics offers a wide variety of isopropyl alcohol products that can be used for surface cleaning and fall within the CDC recommendations for COVID-19 disinfection. Chemtronics isopropyl alcohol products are manufactured under strict quality control guidelines to assure they are free of any contamination like methanol. For more information, contact us at 770-424-4888 or askchemtronics@chemtronics.com.

 

Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-reiterates-warning-about-dangerous-alcohol-based-hand-sanitizers

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanol

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isopropyl_alcohol

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