Looking out for hand sanitizers not strong enough to kill COVID-19

FDA’s do-not-use list grows to about 100 brands, some produced in the U.S.

Two months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered that toxic hand sanitizers were being sold to consumers, the problem is taking troubling new turns.

It’s not just that some products contain dangerous methanol. Now, a few have been detected to contain a possibly even more toxic substance: 1-propanol. And nearly two dozen sanitizers have been flagged for not containing enough active ingredients to kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

With those issues in mind, the FDA’s do-not-use list expanded this week to more than 100 brands and 160 varieties, including, for the first time, a sanitizer produced in China. Also added to the list in recent days were sanitizers manufactured in Ohio, Texas, Utah and North Carolina. Most of the other problematic brands were produced in Mexico.

To be effective, sanitizers should contain high percentages of either of two forms of alcohol  -- at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol -- that are safe on human skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.In the last week and a half, the FDA has identified 20 sanitizers that didn’t contain enough ethanol, isopropanol or another active ingredient to be effective.

The brands called out by the FDA for being ineffective include: V-Klean, CleanCare, dgreen, Clean Humans, Datsen, Bernal, Inflatables Alcohol Antiseptic, Medically Minded, Protz, OZO, UltraCruz and Healthy Food and Nutrition Lab (HF&N).

Some of those sanitizers also contained methanol, another form of alcohol that is used to make fuel and antifreeze and is dangerous when absorbed through the skin (or inhaled or ingested).

On Wednesday, the FDA flagged four varieties of sanitizer manufactured by Harmonic Nature because it was found to contain 1-propanol. That toxin can cause allergic reactions, nervous system problems and even death if it is absorbed through the skin, ingested or comes into contact with the eyes. The FDA on Wednesday asked the company to recall the products. Symptoms of 1-propanol exposure include confusion, slowed pulse and slowed breathing.

In mid-June, the FDA issued public alerts because five brands involving 19 varieties of hand sanitizer either contained methanol or were produced using equipment contaminated by methanol. The FDA reported a rash of illnesses and four deaths in the United States that it believes were connected to toxic hand sanitizers. The FDA’s ongoing investigation has found methanol contamination ranging from 1 percent to 80 percent in various sanitizers.

Some of the roughly 100 affected brands are ones we’re familiar with. But most of the companies producing the dangerous sanitizers were never registered before with the FDA to produce over-the-counter drugs. Hand sanitizer falls into that category with the FDA.

One of the new brands on the list this week was Leafree Instant Hand Sanitizer, manufactured by Yangzhou Olande Cosmetic Co. in China. The product was labeled “edible alcohol,” the FDA said. No sanitizers containing ethyl or isopropyl alcohol are intended for consumption. The FDA promptly put an import alert on it to stop it from entering the United States. None of the sanitizers containing ethyl or isopropyl alcohol are intended for consumption.

The FDA has called out manufacturers, distributors and retailers for not helping keep dangerous products away from consumers. “Manufacturers’ failure to immediately recall all potentially affected products is placing consumers in danger of methanol poisoning,” the FDA said. “Additionally, the FDA is strongly urging distributors and retailers to stop distributing and selling hand sanitizers manufactured by the firms on the list immediately, even if the particular product is not included in a recall, due to the risk of methanol poisoning.”

What can consumers do?
  1. Scrutinize any hand sanitizer purchased since March, which is when the FDA relaxed its guidelines to allow unregistered companies to produce hand sanitizer. 
  2. Avoid any sanitizers from any of the named companies, even if the variety or lot numbers are different. 
  3. Pay close attention to products manufactured in Mexico, products with no disclosure about where it was produced and product names you’re not familiar with or that sound odd, like simply “Hand Sanitizer.”
  4. Pay attention to symptoms such as headache, blurry or impaired vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination or confusion and, if you believe it could be connected to hand sanitizer, contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or your doctor.
  5. Continue to check for updates to the FDA’s list of dangerous products because its investigation is ongoing.
How to report bad hand sanitizers

Consumers and health care professionals are encouraged to report issues with hand sanitizers to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. People can:

  1. Complete and submit the report online; or

  2. Download and complete the form, then submit it via fax at 1-800-FDA-0178.

Consumers, manufacturers or distributors who have questions can email the FDA at  COVID-19-Hand-Sanitizers@fda.hhs.gov or the CDC at DRUGINFO@fda.hhs.gov

Check the list

Here’s the list of hand sanitizers the FDA has flagged as of Aug. 13 that should not be used:

Alcohol Antiseptic 62% Hand Sanitizer (Quimica Magna de Mexico)

Alcohol Antiseptic 70% Solution or 80% Solution (Ignacio Reyes Gonzalez)

Alcohol Antiseptic 75% Topical (Harmonic Nature)

Alcohol Antiseptic 80% topical (Botanicals Internacional)

All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (EskBiochem)

All Clear Hand Sanitizer (Botanicals Internacional)

Always Be Clean (Open Book Extracts, North Carolina)

AMX Instant Hand Sanitizer (Noticias Mexico Hoy Grupo Multimedia)

Andy’s (Limpo Quimicos)

Andy’s Best (Limpo Quimicos)

Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution hand sanitizer (Soluciones Cosmeticas)

Anti-Bac Hand Sanitizer (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Assured (4E Global)

Assured (Albek de Mexico)

Be Safe (Tropicosmeticos)

Bernal (Quimica Magna)

Bersih (Soluciones Cosmeticas)

Bio AAA Advance (AAA Cosmetica) 

Blumen (4E Global SAPI de CV)

Born Basic (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Britz (Tropicosmeticos)

BV BYE Virus (Plastico Las Palmas)

Cavalry (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Clean Humans (DEPQ Internacional)

CleanCare NoGerm (Precision Analitica Integral)

CleanCare NoGerm (Eskbiochem)

Cleaner Hand (Tropicosmeticos)

Command Gel (Roque Plast)

DAESI hand sanitizer (Yara Elena De La Garza Perez Nieto)

Datsen (Quimica Magna)

Derma70 Hand Sanitizer (Asiaticon)

Dgreen (DEPQ Internaciona)

Earths Amenities (DDI Multinacional)

Enliven (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Esk Biochem (Eskbiochem)

Florance Morris Body Care (Grupo Asimex de Mexico)

Foamy iQ (Spartan Chemical)

GelBac (Incredible Products)

Goldsquare (Ismar Soluciones Dinámicas)

Good Gel (Eskbiochem)

Greenfrog (Notarika)

Greenfrog Sanitizing Wipes (Notarika)

Hand Sanitizer (DEPQ Internacional)

Hand Sanitizer (Grupo Insoma)

Hand Sanitizer (Grupo Plast Y Kosas)

Hand Sanitizer (Incredible Products)

Hand Sanitizer (MXL Comercial)

Hand Sanitizer (Real Clean)

Hand Sanitizer (Soluciones Cosmeticas)

Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare (DDI Multinacional)

Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Gel (Resource Recovery & Trading)

Handzer (Tropicosmeticos)

Hello Kitty (4E Global)

Herbacil (Broncolin)

HF&N (Healthy Food and Nutrition Lab)

Honeykeeper (4E Global)

In Good Hands (Plastico Las Palmas)

Inatek (Botanicals Internacional)

Incredible Products (Pacific Coast)

Jalisco (Grupo Plast)

Jaloma (Laboratorios Jaloma)

Just Hand Sanitizer Single-Use Packs (Open Book Extracts, North Carolina)

Klar and Danver (4E Global)

Kleanz (Tropicosmeticos)

Lavar (Eskbiochem)

Leafree (Yangzhou Olande Cosmetic)

Leiper’s (Leiper’s Fork Distillery, Tennessee)

Lite'n Foamy by Roque Plast (Spartan Chemical Co Inc., Ohio)

LumiSkin (AAA Cosmetica)

Lux Eoi (Real Clean Distribuciones)

M Hand Sanitizer (Grupo Plast)

Medi Science Laboratories (Ismar Soluciones Dinámicas)

Medical Mary Clean (Noticias Mexico Hoy Grupo)

Medically Minded (Asiaticon)

Medically Minded (Ignacio Reyes Gonzalez)

Modesa (Albek de Mexico)

MVP Sanitizing Services Spray (Jose Miguel Gutierrez Salas)

Mystic Shield Protection (Mystic International)

NeoNatural (Limpo Quimicos)

NEXT (Albek de Mexico)

NuuxSan (Albek de Mexico)

O.K. Pharmacy (Grupo Plast)

Optimus (Liqesa Exportacion)

OZO (Estrategia Hospitalaria)

OZO (Ismar Soluciones Dinámicas)

Parabola (Tropicosmeticos)

Plus Advanced (Limpo Quimicos)

Protz Real Protection Antibacterial (Asiaticon)

Protz Real Protection (MYM Hidrominerales)

Purity (Soluciones Cosmeticas)

QualitaMed (AAA Cosmetica)

ResQue 1st (Botanicals Internacional)

Saniderm (Eskbiochem)

Sayab (JG Atlas Comercios)

Scent Theory - Keep It Clean (Real Clean Distribuciones)

Selecto (Maquiladora Miniara)

70% Alcohol Gel Hand Sanitizer (Botanicals Internacional)

Shine and Clean Hand Sanitizer (Maquiladora Miniara)

SkinGuard24 All-Day (SG24 LLC, Georgia)

Total Pure (Botanicals Internacional)

TriCleanz (Tritanium Labs USA LLC, Illinois)

TriCleanz (Incredible Products)

UltraCruz (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Texas)

Urbane Bath and Body (Tropicosmeticos)

V-KLEAN (Asiaticon)

Vidanos Easy Cleaning (DDI Multinacional)

Volu-Sol (Volu-Sol, Inc., Utah)

Wave (Tropicosmeticos)

Yacana (Grupo Yacana Mexico)

Zanilast (Nanomateriales)