Covid-19: US regulators issue warning over 'toxic' Mexico hand sanitisers

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US regulators have warned that more than half of all alcohol-based hand sanitisers imported from Mexico contain dangerous levels of toxic ingredients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was placing the products on a countrywide "import alert" until it was able to review their safety.

Some were advertised as containing ethanol but were found to contain methanol, or wood alcohol.

Methanol can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or fatal if ingested.

Another dangerous ingredient - 1-propanol - was also found in some products, the FDA said.

The import alert means alcohol-based hand sanitisers from Mexico will be subject to heightened FDA scrutiny, and shipments could be impounded.

"Consumer use of hand sanitisers has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when soap and water are not accessible, and the availability of poor-quality products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients will not be tolerated," said Judy McMeekin, FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.

A statement said that FDA tests on hand sanitisers from Mexico found 84% of the samples from April to December 2020 did not comply with US regulations.

"More than half of the samples were found to contain toxic ingredients, including methanol and/or 1-propanol, at dangerous levels," it said.

More than 900 accidental poisonings involving hand sanitiser have been reported in the US in January alone, CBS News reported, the majority involving young children.

media captionThe University of Westminster's Dr Adele McCormick demonstrates how to wash your hands

Throughout the pandemic the FDA has warned consumers to carefully check that hand sanitisers meet certain standards.

It has produced a list of products it advises people not to buy.

To kill the coronavirus, hand sanitisers must contain a sufficient amount of alcohol, at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They must also be safe to use on the skin.

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