Sanitizer in Milk Cartons Sends at Least 25 Pre-K Students to Hospital

A New Jersey school district sent more than two dozen prekindergarten students to the hospital after they drank sanitizer that was in milk cartons.

The Camden City School District said some milk cartons were accidentally filled with a "non-toxic consumable sanitizer," according to a statement posted on Facebook.

"No students are currently ill but were sent to the hospital as a precaution," the statement said, adding that emergency teams were dispatched to the school. At least 25 students were hospitalized, KYW-TV reported.

When the coronavirus pandemic was on the rise in 2020, more people were drinking hand sanitizer, causing experts to release a report warning that doing so could be lethal. An article from HealthyChildren.org encouraged parents to keep the sanitizers out of the reach of children and to check the ingredients of their sanitizers to make sure they hadn't been recalled.

The Camden district's announcement has worried the community, with one Facebook commenter saying that "the entire quality system is in question." Although it appears there have been no serious side effects from the sanitizer, the exposure raises concerns over how the accident happened.

The school district declined to comment to Newsweek because its investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Sanitizer in Milk Sends Students to Hospital
At least 25 prekindergarten students in New Jersey had to go to the hospital after drinking from milk cartons that contained sanitizer. Above, a group of children get on a school bus. Stock Image/Getty Images

The cartons were filled with the sanitizer, sealed and shipped out to the Early Childhood Development Center with the regular milk cartons, the school district's statement said. Since then, the milk has been pulled from the shelves and will not be served until the school district's investigation has concluded.

It is unclear which milk company the school used or how the incident happened. Although the sanitizer the children ingested was nontoxic, the school officials still wanted to be sure there were no health risks.

There have been other cases of children being poisoned by sanitizers, with the most recent report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2020, showing household cleaning substances and personal care products were the second and third top kinds of substances that exposed people to poison. Painkillers topped the list.

Nearly half of the poisoning cases that year occurred in children 5 or younger, the report added. More than two-thirds of cases were unintentional. That year, more than 37,000 of the poison exposures were specifically linked to hand sanitizers.

"Hand sanitizer is actually rather potent," Dr. Damien Mitchell said in a report by Medical City Healthcare. "It's about 60 percent alcohol, or 120 proof, so it packs a punch. Children don't process alcohol the same way adults do, so it has higher toxic effects for them."

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration warned Americans against using certain hand sanitizers because of "unacceptable levels of" carcinogenic chemicals. This followed a trend of warnings against certain hand sanitizers, as a lab also found more than 20 hand sanitizer brands contained dangerous chemicals earlier that year.

Update 03/30/22, 3:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.