After Drinking Hand Sanitizer, 3 Dead and 1 Permanently Blinded In New Mexico

Three people in New Mexico died and one became permanently blinded after drinking hand sanitizer.

The New Mexico Department of Health released a statement Friday indicating that that three of seven people who ingested had sanitizer in May died from methanol poisoning; one was blinded permanently; and the other three remain in critical condition.

Kathy Kunkel, the secretary for the state health department, said in the statement that those who have either consumed or ingested hand sanitizer containing methanol should "seek immediate medical care."

"An antidote to methanol poisoning is available, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning the better the chance of recovery," Kunkel said.

Newsweek reached out to the New Mexico health department for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The news comes days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised the public not to use certain hand sanitizers that are manufactured in Mexico when absorbed through the skin or ingested, due to the presence of methanol in those products.

Some of the products tested by the FDA contained 81 percent methanol that, according to the agency, is "not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects."

"Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death," the FDA stated.

The FDA indicated that those who ingest these products, including people who used them as a substitute for ethanol, the principle ingredient in alcoholic beverages, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.

It is unclear why the seven New Mexico residents ingested hand sanitizer, or which products specifically they ingested.

The FDA contacted Eskbiochem, which manufactures nine hand sanitizing products containing methanol in Mexico, to recommend that the company remove those products from the market "due to the risks associated with methanol poisoning." The recommendations were made June 17 and the company has yet remove the products, according to the FDA.

The FDA also stated in its June 19 statement that it was not aware of any reports of "adverse events" resulting from the use of the nine listed products they listed.

"FDA encourages health care professionals, consumers and patients to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program," the agency said.

Hand Sanitizer
A person using hand sanitizer. The New Mexico Department of Health stated three people died and one was permanently blinded after ingesting hand sanitizer in May. Lionel Bonaventure/Getty