CHOICE Australia’s most recent analysis of hand sanitiser labels has found nearly half of the brands sold in major supermarkets don’t list their alcohol content, leaving Australians in the dark about what these essential COVID-19 protective products actually contain.
Since releasing these findings, CHOICE investigated a wider range of supermarket hand sanitisers.
“With hand sanitiser such an important part of the response to COVID-19, the Australian Government needs to set the standards high and resource spot checks to make sure the products are up to scratch,” says Price
Other findings from the research include that 59% of people incorrectly believe that hand sanitisers sold in Australia are required by law to state the percentage of alcohol they contain on the label. Nearly half (49%) incorrectly believe that hand sanitisers sold in Australia are required by law to contain a certain amount of alcohol.
Choice advised people against using alcohol-free hand sanitiser and published a guide of simple tests you can do to see if hand sanitiser is likely to be above the recommended 60% alcohol, including paying attention to the smell and feel of hand sanitiser.
After identifying just how widespread ineffective alcohol-free sanitisers were becoming, we sent a number of complaints about these sanitisers to regulators, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
But some alcohol-based sanitisers also presented a real concern. CHOICE then expanded its own testing program in the absence of meaningful regulation or monitoring, following a community tip-off. That test revealed a sanitiser with only 23% alcohol content – well below the amount required to be effective.
Julia Naftulin of Insider reports since the FDA has alerted the public to the dangers of hand sanitisers in the US and other parts of the world, they can no longer be bought with methanol, a type of alcohol typically used in industrial environments and found in many industrial products such as hand soap and water.
Experts say that too little alcohol or expired products should be avoided in disinfectants, especially if soap or water is present. Products, containing the toxic chemical methinol, which, when absorbed or absorbed into the skin, can be toxic and lead to cancer, heart disease, kidney failure and even death. [Sources: 9]
Products with more than 4% methone must be labeled as “poison” in the US, and up to 4.5% in other parts of the world, according to the FDA. [Sources: 9]
The FDA first issued a warning on June 19, saying consumers should not buy products that contain methanol. The FDA has since updated its warning and noted that the agency has seen an increase in the number of hand sanitisers labeled as ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol) that actually contain methanols.
So far, a total of 75 hand sanitisers have tested positive for methanol, some of which have already been recalled. In total, there are now more than 75 hand disinfectants that can contain the toxic active substance methansol. [Sources: 4, 7]
According to the FDA, methanol is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.
The FDA has reported a number of other illnesses it believes are linked to the toxic hand sanitiser, including diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and vomiting. [Sources: 5]
Infants who accidentally consume the substance are most at risk of methanol poisoning, according to the FDA warning letter. [Sources: 6]
In its statement, the FDA said methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is not an acceptable component of hand sanitisers and should not be used in its natural form. The FDA urged consumers who were exposed to disinfected hands with a sanitiser containing methinol to seek immediate treatment. If they are exposed to a respiratory infection and require immediate treatment, such as respiratory infections, it is recommended that they seek treatment immediately. [Sources: 0, 3]