Ag. Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 852 7742
Residents of the Virgin Islands are advised to be vigilant against counterfeit hand sanitisers that are being sold on the market.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is alerting the public to the counterfeit hand sanitisers as they appear as genuine products but contain the active ingredients in a toxic gel methanol or methyl alcohol and 1-propanol or propyl alcohol that may result in death.
Methanol, methyl alcohol or Wood Alcohol is used to make rocket fuel and antifreeze. The use of methanol can cause methanol poisoning and should never be applied to the skin as a rub or ingested. Using hand sanitisers that contain methanol can cause serious health problems such as poor or no coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased vision that may start as early as twelve (12) hours after exposure. Usage can also cause long term affects such as blindness, kidney failure and death.
1-Propanol or 1-propyl alcohol is used to make industrial solvents (a type of cleaner) and can be toxic if swallowed. Using hand sanitizers made with 1-propanol can cause skin or eye irritation, decreased breathing and heart rate, and may lead to death.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States of America (USA) has reported four (4) deaths because of methanol poisoning.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is also advising individuals not to taste their hands or drink any hand sanitiser in place of alcoholic drink as this is also dangerous and has resulted in the death of individual due to alcohol poisoning.
The use of hand sanitisers by young children should be supervised so that they do not overuse the liquid and taste their hands with the sanitizers on them. Additionally, hand sanitisers should not be used on pets’ paws or skin, as this can cause alcohol poisoning, serious health problems, and death in animals. Animal owners are asked to contact their veterinarian immediately if their pet has been exposed to hand sanitisers.
Persons are asked to purchase hand sanitisers with 60 percent or above of Ethyl alcohol or Isopropyl alcohol and to practice safety during application and to not use around an open flame for it is flammable and can cause further harm.
The public is also reminded that the hands should be allowed to air dry after applying the hand sanitiser and not wiped dry as this renders the hand sanitiser ineffective and that hand sanitiser should be used only when hand washing is not possible, and that hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds.