Sanitisers may contain lethal methanol

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2

Forget protecting youself from Covid-19, the hand sanitisers you use may contain nothing but a lethal chemical, methanol, known to cause life-threatening ailments in pregnant women, the elderly, alcoholics, individuals having poor-quality diet and persons on certain medication.

Punjab’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found this during an analysis of over 60 sanitisers being sold in the state.

According to the FDA, the biggest shock came on Wednesday when, while testing samples gathered over the past two months, it was found that a popular sanitiser had 95 per cent methanol in it. Around 60 per cent of the samples didn’t comprise constituents as written on the wrapper. A majority contained lesser ethanol than mentioned. Several were found adulterated with water or other substances. Any hand sanitiser should contain 80 per cent ethanol or 75 per cent isopropyl alcohol, as per the WHO standards.

After the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, the state government had allowed distilleries to produce sanitisers.

Kahan Singh Pannu, FDA Commissioner, said most of the violations were of colour or lesser content. “Four samples contained methanol instead of ethanol. This falls in the category of adulteration and we have launched action against the violators,” said Pannu.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH. It is a light, volatile, colourless, flammable liquid with a distinctive alcoholic odour similar to that of ethanol. It is a toxic alcohol used industrially as a solvent, pesticide and alternative fuel source.

The WHO has established that methanol is irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Acute oral and inhalation exposures and, to a lesser extent, percutaneous (through skin) absorption of high concentrations of methanol have resulted in central nervous system depression, blindness, coma and death.

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