COVID-19: Health Canada lists over 60 hand sanitizers under recall for health risks

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      After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took some time for manufacturers of hand sanitizers to catch up with the massive demand for hygiene and cleaning products.

      But now that store shelves are stocked with them, not all of them are safe to use.

      Health Canada has posted two lists of hand sanitizers that are being recalled.

      In a revised notification on August 4 (originally posted on June 6, and updated on August 5), Health Canada listed over 50 products that are undergoing recalls because of health concerns, and the list will be updated with any newly identified products.

      The primary issue is that these products contain certain types of ethanol or denaturants that aren’t approved as ingredients for use in hand sanitizers, as they haven’t been reviewed for safety or effectiveness.

      Denaturants are added to ethanol to make it unfit for consumption, particularly by children. The affected products contain denaturants such as ethyl acetate and methanol.

      Frequent use of ethyl acetate can lead to dry skin, including skin irritation or cracking. Meanwhile, methanol can cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation, and headaches.

      Another list posted on June 24 (and last updated on June 30) named over 10 recalled hand-sanitizer products containing technical-grade ethanol that do not comply with federal health regulations and pose potential health risks.

      Because of a shortage of pharmaceutical- and food-grade ethanol, Health Canada temporarily permitted the use of technical-grade ethanol in alcohol-based hand sanitizers. as of April 15.

      However, manufacturers are also required to list the following statements on their products labels:

      • Under Medicinal Ingredients: “Ethanol XX% (technical-grade).”
      • Under Directions: “Adults only.”
      • Under Warnings: “Do not use on broken or damaged skin”; “Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding”; and “Do not inhale.”
      • Include a statement for consumers: “Report any incident to Health Canada."
      • Under Questions: “Call 1-866-234-2345 to report any adverse reaction.”

      The products on the list either lack the label statements or aren’t authorized to use technical-grade ethanol, have an incorrect Natural Product Number, or aren’t authorized for sale in Canada.

      Anyone who has the listed products should immediately stop using them, contact a health-care professional with any health concerns, and report any adverse reactions from product usage to Health Canada.

      To dispose of these products, Health Canada recommends following municipal or regional guidelines on how to dispose of chemicals and hazardous waste, or return the product to a local pharmacy for proper disposal.

      For more information on hand sanitizers and disinfectants—including a list of authorized hand sanitizers—visit the Health Canada website.

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