Illinois Woman Died Drinking Hand Sanitizer, Lawsuit Claims

The family of an Illinois woman who allegedly died after drinking Blumen hand sanitizer has filed a federal lawsuit against 4e Brands North America, the company that made it.

Kayla Stagner, 32, who was an alcoholic, died last May at a hospital in the St. Louis area of Missouri. She was believed to have drunk the Blumen Advanced Instant Sanitizer, which was recalled in early July last year due to the potential presence of methanol, according to a statement at the time from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The recall was expanded in late July last year to include several of the company's other hand sanitizers.

A St. Louis County medical examiner determined Stagner's death was caused by acute methanol intoxication, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in St. Louis. A bottle of Blumen Advanced Instant Sanitizer tested in connection with the autopsy was found to have contained dangerous levels of methanol, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested. Exposure to methanol can result in "nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death," the FDA previously warned.

At the time of the product's recall in early July, the FDA's statement said: "Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk...adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning. To date, 4e Brands North America has not received reports of adverse events related to this recall."

Stagner, who was born in St. Louis but lived in Jersey County, Illinois, was working as a pre-school teacher at the time of her death.

Newsweek has contacted 4e Brands North America for comment.

Following the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, hand sanitizers began flying off the shelves of retailers across the country.

After initial warnings issued in June and in early July about some hand sanitizers containing methanol being sold in retail venues and online, the FDA issued another warning in late July last year.

The FDA warned at the time: "Manufacturers' failure to immediately recall all potentially affected products is placing consumers in danger of methanol poisoning. One of the reported deaths is associated with Blumen Hand Sanitizer, distributed by 4e North America and manufactured by 4E Global in Mexico, who recently expanded its recall to include additional lots of its hand sanitizer products."

In late January, all alcohol-based hand sanitizers from Mexico were placed on a nationwide import alert.

The FDA said at the time: "Over the course of the ongoing pandemic, the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products from Mexico that were labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but tested positive for methanol contamination."

An FDA analysis of alcohol-based hand sanitizers imported from Mexico found that 84 percent of samples reviewed from April to December last year did not comply with the FDA's regulations.

"More than half of the samples were found to contain toxic ingredients, including methanol and/or 1-propanol, at dangerous levels," the FDA said in late January.

Last November, the FDA's list of hand sanitizers deemed unsafe for humans grew to 215. All of the hand sanitizers were made in Mexico.

In August last year, the FDA recalled more than 100 hand sanitizers due to their toxicity, which experts claimed was because manufacturers deliberately substituted ingredients that are harmful in order to cut costs.

Hand sanitizers Washington, D.C. March 2020
A basket of bottles of hand sanitizer pictured in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2020. The family of an Illinois woman who allegedly died after drinking a Blumen hand sanitizer product has filed a lawsuit against the company that made it. Samuel Corum/Getty Images