Warning to check hand sanitiser labels as deadly ingredient prompts recall in US

Hand sanitisers have become a daily ritual in our fight against Covid-19. There’s almost a bottle at the entrance of every store, even some alcohol companies have started creating their own products.

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Some hand sanitisers in the US have been found to contain methanol. Source: 1 NEWS

But with dozens of brands recalled in the United States, how do we know if what’s on sale, is safe to use?

Nanotechologist Dr Michelle Dickinson says for a hand sanitiser to be effective, it needs to have an alcohol content of 60 per cent or more.

“The challenge is you have a lot of hand sanitisers that don’t tell you the percentage of alcohol, or they use buzzwords like ‘instant hand sanitiser’ or ‘extra strength’ which don’t actually mean anything. The most important thing is to check the ingredients.”

In New Zealand, the word alcohol on the ingredients list can be labelled as ethanol – another form of alcohol.

In America, many labels on recalled products say they contain ethanol, but tests showed they also contained a different type of alcohol, methanol. Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, can cause blindness and can be lethal if ingested.

Dr Dickinson says while hand sanitisers aren’t regulated in New Zealand, methanol isn’t used in products.

In a statement, the Environmental Protection Authority told 1 NEWS the public sale of sanitisers with methanol is heavily restricted.

But it’s reminded consumers to still be cautious.

“We would recommend consumers only purchase from a reputable source and that they read and follow the label instructions,” it says.

But regardless of the best product on the market, Dr Dickinson says it was always come second to washing your hands.

“What people don’t realise with hand sanitiser is that because there’s no action of rinsing the product with water, you just end up pushing bacteria around on your hands.

"Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water is a lot more effective,” she told 1 NEWS.