During the early weeks of the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, certain products used to prevent transmission quickly became hard to find. Face coverings, disinfectant products, and hand sanitizer were in short supply. In the rush to replenish these supplies, some manufacturers produced highly toxic hand sanitizers that could result in a hospitality visit, or even death. As of early August 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled more than 100 different hand sanitizers containing methanol. With many hand sanitizer sprays and gels on the market, many consumers are confused about which products are safe to use.
What Makes Certain Hand Sanitizers Dangerous?
On July 2, 2020, the FDA issued a press release alerting the public to the risks of using hand sanitizers containing methanol. Methanol, also called wood alcohol, is toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening if ingested. Reports of consumers experiencing adverse effects include hospitalization, blindness, and death. Due to its toxicity, methanol is not approved for use in hand sanitizers. This is particularly concerning because many of these products containing methanol are mislabeled as containing ethanol, which is safe and approved for consumer use.
What are the Signs of Methanol Poisoning?
Methanol is a colorless liquid alcohol with numerous industrial uses. It is used in pesticides and as an alternative fuel source. Methanol also occurs naturally in people, plants, and animals in small amounts. In high concentrations, inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion can be toxic. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include:
- Blurred vision or permanent blindness
- Nervous system damage
Methanol is also highly-flammable, adding to the list of concerns for consumers unknowingly exposed to this toxic chemical. Anyone exposed to methanol in hand sanitizer or any other substance should seek immediate treatment and contact their local poison control center.
Has My Hand Sanitizer Been Recalled?
Fortunately, the FDA is closely monitoring the sale of mislabeled and dangerous hand sanitizers and continually expands their list of recalled products. Many recalled sanitizers are imported from other countries and sold at popular national retail chains. A complete list of recalled hand sanitizers can be found on the FDA website.
How Do I Report a Dangerous Hand Sanitizer to the FDA?
Since the FDA’s recall list keeps growing, it is safe to assume there are still more dangerous products on the market that have yet to be recalled. Consumers can help keep dangerous products containing methanol away from the public by reporting them to the FDA Med Watch Adverse Event reporting system. Forms can be submitted online or faxed. Besides extensive hand sanitizer recalls, the FDA advises consumers to be alert for the following:
- Hand sanitizers that do not contain the right amount of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, which makes them ineffective against COVID-19.
- Sanitizing products that are packaged and marketed to look like candy or drinks, which lead to accidental ingestion, especially by children.
- Products labeled as FDA-approved.
Tips for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19
The FDA reminds the public that hand sanitizers are one way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Washing hands frequently, according to CDC guidelines, is the preferred method to reduce transmission of the virus from person to person. When soap and water are not readily available, then hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent ethanol are recommended. People should wash or sanitize their hands:
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
- After using the restroom.
- Before, during, and after preparing and eating.
- When caring for someone who is sick.
- After changing diapers.
- After feeding or touching an animal or their waste.
- After touching garbage.
I Became Sick After Using a Methanol Sanitizer, What Should I Do?
After seeking immediate medical attention for methanol poisoning, an injured consumer should consider contacting an experienced products liability lawyer in their community. Methanol toxicity is a serious health concern and can cause temporary or permanent disability. Beyond the pain and discomfort, methanol sanitizers and other dangerous products can cost injured individuals thousands of dollars in doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, and ongoing care.
If the person is too ill to work, they lose essential income they need to provide for themselves and their families. In some cases, a products liability claim is an effective way to hold reckless parties accountable and to recover financial compensation.
Products Liability Claims
Individuals injured by toxic hand sanitizers can bring a claim against those responsible for any injuries sustained, such as the following:
- The product’s manufacturer.
- Any company that manufactured one of the ingredients in the product.
- The company that formulated or assembled the product.
- A retailer that sold the product.
- An advertiser that marketed the product.
In a successful products liability claim, it must be shown that the plaintiff used the defective product in the manner it was intended for. The plaintiff’s lawyer must then prove the plaintiff followed the product’s instructions and heeded all warnings on the label.
Damages for Dangerous Product Lawsuits
Every products liability case is unique, and damages will vary based on the extent of the injured plaintiff’s condition and the nature of the product’s defect. The following factors are considered when assessing financial damages:
- Non-economic damages: These include things that are tough to quantify, such as pain and suffering and the loss of consortium.
- Economic damages: These include medical bills, lost income, property damage, and disability costs.
The risks of methanol inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion are well known. For that reason, companies are not allowed to include this ingredient in commercial hand sanitizers. Those who intentionally do so may have to pay out punitive damages to an injured plaintiff.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the negligent party and deter them and others from failing to protect consumers in the future. After carefully reviewing the details of a client’s case, a products liability lawyer will determine what damages are appropriate, based on the individual’s injuries.
Types of Product Defects
The types of products liability claims are categorized by the following:
- Design defects: Flaws in the product’s basic formula or design.
- Manufacturing defects: Flaws that develop during the assembly or manufacturing process, despite the product having a safe formula or design.
- Marketing defects: Problems with the way a product is marketed to consumers, including misleading instructions or inadequate guidelines about how to use a product safely.
In the case of hand sanitizers containing methanol, there are problems with the products’ basic formula because they contain hazardous chemicals not advised for consumer use. Also, there are marketing defects because many of the products recalled by the FDA are mislabeled and do not disclose the fact that they contain methanol.
A person may assume that the products filling the shelves of well-known retailers are safe to use and are effective at killing germs. However, the sizable FDA recall of many commercial hand sanitizers proves this is not the case. Fortunately, there are legal means available to hold companies who make, sell, and market hazardous products liable. A consumer harmed by a toxic hand sanitizer should contact a lawyer for guidance with filing a claim.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Consumers Harmed by Dangerous Hand Sanitizers
If you were injured by a hand sanitizer containing methanol or any other dangerous product, our team of skilled Philadelphia products liability lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. We will not hesitate to take on the corporations who allow dangerous sanitizers to get into the hands of unknowing shoppers. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.