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Three dead from drinking hand sanitizer

3 others in critical condition, one person permanently blinded

FARMINGTON – There have been three reported deaths resulting from methanol poisoning contained in hand sanitizer, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The state agency announced the deaths Friday, saying two of the deaths have occurred since May 29. In addition to the three deaths, three other people are in critical condition and one has been permanently blinded from the poison. The first case was reported May 7 to the state poison control center.

All seven people are said to have drank hand sanitizer that contained methanol.

“If you think you may have used or consumed hand sanitizer containing methanol, please seek medical care,” said Kathy Kunkel, the Cabinet secretary for the Department of Health. “An antidote to methanol poisoning is available, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning the better the chance of recovery.”

Methanol is a toxic form of alcohol that can cause kidney damage, blindness and death. It can be fatal when inhaled or applied onto the skin, but it is most dangerous when it is ingested.

The announcement of the poisonings in New Mexico comes a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised consumers to be aware of hand sanitizer that contained methanol and advised consumers not to use nine brands that had been found to have methanol in them.

The nine brands are:

All-Clean Hand SanitizerEsk Biochem Hand SanitzierCleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (75% alcohol)Lavar 70 Gel Hand SanitizerThe Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand SanitizerCleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (two versions) (80% alcohol)CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (75% alcohol)Saniderm Advanced Hand SanitizerIn its statement, the FDA said, “Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.”

The FDA said it had contacted the companies to remove the hand sanitizers containing methanol from the market on June 17, but no action has been taken to date.

Kunkel advised anyone who had purchased any of those brands of hand sanitizer to stop using them and dispose of them like it is hazardous waste. The New Mexico Department of Health also advised that non-commercially produced hand sanitizer could potentially contain methanol.

Health care providers who suspect a patient or individual has methanol poisoning are encouraged to call the New Mexico Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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