The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says some hand sanitisers have been found to contain 1-propanol, a toxin that can harm the central nervous system.
FDA said in a statement that the affected products included those manufactured by “Harmonic Nature, S de RL de MI”, in Mexico.
It said the adulterated sanitisers were labeled to contain ethanol or isopropyl alcohol but have tested positive for 1-propanol contamination.
“1-propanol, not to be confused with 2-propanol/isopropanol/isopropyl alcohol, is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitiser products marketed in the U.S. and can be toxic and life-threatening when ingested,” it said.
Mostly at risk are children who accidentally ingest the products, and adolescents and adults who drink them as substitutes for alcohol, the agency noted.
It highlighted common symptoms of 1-propanol exposure to include confusion, decreased consciousness as well as slowed pulse and breathing.
According to the FDA, animal studies indicate that the central nervous system depressant effects of 1-propanol “are 2 to 4 times as potent as alcohol (ethanol).”
“Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitiser containing 1-propanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate care for treatment of toxic effects of 1-propanol poisoning.
“Skin or eye exposure to 1-propanol can result in irritation, and rare cases of allergic skin reactions have been reported,” it said.
Hand sanitiser containing not less than 60 per cent alcohol is one of the essential items recommended by health authorities for people to carry around.
The FDA’s warning reinforces a similar alert issued by the UN on July 8.
In a research brief, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that illegal trade in fake COVID-19-related products was booming amid a surge in demand.
“Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for PPE and medications.
“We need to help countries increase cooperation to close gaps, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and drive public awareness to keep people safe,” UNODC said.