What’s in a name: Are sanitizer ingredients really that different?

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What’s in a name: Are sanitizer ingredients really that different?

UNITED STATES – As health officials around the country continue to ask citizens to practice good hand hygiene to help stop the spread of COVID19, many Americans are starting to use hand sanitizer on a daily basis. But when reading through labels one might ask, what’s really in a name?

Certain types of alcohol in sanitizer make a big difference

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the difference in alcohol types used to make hand sanitizer can literally mean life or death. Since the COVID-19 crisis started in America, the FDA has recalled more than 150 sanitizers due to the presence of dangerous chemicals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently recalled more than 150 hand sanitizers due to the presence of dangerous chemicals, the majority of which have tested positive for methanol contamination. The agency plans to continue the testing of hand sanitizers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

As of Aug. 31, the FDA website lists 171 contaminated hand sanitizers, most of which contain potential methanol or propanol contamination. According to their report on July 20, the “agency has seen a sharp increase” in products labeled to contain ethanol, but have tested positive for methanol contamination.

“Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested,” the FDA statement said. “The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.”

Methanol is often used to create fuel and antifreeze. Since the agency began reporting on the contaminations in June, at least one death has been reported in association with tainted hand sanitizer.

Stay safe by reading labels, doing research

According to an FDA directive issued on April 15, those making alcohol-based hand sanitizers should list products in the FDA Drug Registration and Listing System. The agency recommends using isopropyl or ethanol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, as well as listing glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, and sterile water as necessary ingredients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that studies have shown sanitizers with a higher concentration of alcohol tend to work better in clinical settings like hospitals, and note that sanitizers with an alcohol content lower than the recommended 60 percent might just slow the spread of germs rather than outright kill them.  

While no specific type of alcohol is listed as preferred on the CDC website, most reputable sanitizer companies use isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. SaniGo, a veteran-owned small business producing USA made sanitizer in Indianapolis, IN., formulated their industrial antiseptic hand rub in accordance with FDA regulations.

“It was very important to us to not cut corners when it comes to customer safety,” SaniGo Business Development Manager Jordan Mendenhall said. “We genuinely care about your family, that’s why our sanitizer is made is 75 percent isopropyl alcohol.”

Mendenhall added hand sanitizer is for external use only, and should never be ingested. The CDC website says from 2011-2015, U.S. Poison Control Centers received close to 85,000 calls concerning hand sanitizer exposure in children.

“Children may be particularly likely to swallow hand sanitizers that are scented, brightly colored, or attractively packaged. Hand sanitizers should be stored out of the reach of young children and should be used with adult supervision,” the CDC said.

For more information about proper hand sanitizer use during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CDC or FDA websites.

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