In the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, sales of hand sanitizer have skyrocketed as consumers do their best to comply with health officials’ recommendations. But while frequently and thoroughly sanitizing may help the spread of COVID-19, it doesn’t mean any old kind will do.
The Food and Drug Administration has released an updated list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid because of inadequate levels of alcohol and those containing methanol. According to The New York Times, the agency issued an advisory earlier this month announcing that its tests had found four hand sanitizers with “concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol” — active ingredients in hand sanitizers.
NeoNatural, Medicare Alcohol Antiseptic Topical Solution, Datsen Hand Sanitizer and Alcohol Antiseptic 62 Percent Hand Sanitizer were all found to have inadequate concentrations of ethanol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that alcohol-based hand sanitizers should have at least 60 percent ethanol, if soap and water are not available.
According to Dr. Matthew G. Heinz, a hospital physician in Tucson, Ariz., lower concentrations of alcohol diminish disinfectant properties, he said.
“Depending on the exact concentration, it may almost have the same effect as putting water on,” he said. “If we’re talking something in the 15, 20, 25 percent range, you may not be able to really kill anything.”
He also reiterates that while hand sanitizers can help there is no substitute for using warm water and soap for cleaning.
“After multiple uses, you can start diminishing the effectiveness of the hand sanitizer,” Dr. Heinz said. “You really do need to actually wash with soap and water for 20 seconds or more to kind of renew things. You really can’t just apply hand sanitizer 40 times throughout the day and think that you’re good.”
Back in June, the F.D.A. warned consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products that were manufactured in Mexico because they contained methanol, a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin. It can also potentially be deadly when ingested. The agency also flagged several more products that had inadequate amounts of benzalkonium chloride, a chemical with antimicrobial properties.
The F.D.A.’s list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid has now grown to nearly 150.
One brand that has been deemed safe for use is Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc.. Developed in partnership with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), the expanded product line consists of six new scented varieties, including Garden Mint, Fresh Linen (only available at Costco), Orange Hibiscus, Eucalyptus, Fresh Lemon & Tea Tree, and Lavender. Neptune's products are natural, plant-based sanitizers made with a specialized blend of essential oils, aloe vera and fruit extract. The hand sanitizers launched in July and are available in the club-store channel.
"We believe natural, plant-based products are the future as consumers pay increased attention to their health and wellness and use hand sanitizer products more frequently to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria," said Michael Cammarata, Chief Executive Officer and President of Neptune Wellness Solutions. "The expansion of our hand sanitizer product line through our partnership with IFF offers consumers a better experience with a variety of great scents, as well as essential oils and aloe vera to promote skin health. We look forward to increasing our distribution nationwide through our retail partnerships."