FDA issues warning on alcohol-based hand sanitizers after spike in eye injuries

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers about the dangers of getting alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the eyes after seeing a surge in injuries. 

If hand sanitizer gets into someone's eyes, it can "result in serious injury, including severe irritation and damage to the surface of the eye," the FDA said in a notice Tuesday.  

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After reviewing U.S. poison control center calls between Jan. 1, 2018, and April 30, 2021, the FDA found "3,642 cases of side effects resulting from eye exposure to these hand sanitizers." 

Most consumers suffered eye irritation or conjunctivitis. However, dozens of people, about 58 cases, reported suffering a "more serious injury to the surface of the eye," according to the FDA. 

Parents teaching their baby how to use hand sanitizer.  (iStock / iStock)

Although eye injuries were reported across all age groups, children accounted for most of the cases, FDA said.

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In order to combat this ongoing issue, the FDA is working to adjust the drug facts label. Until then, the agency is trying to "make the public aware of this growing safety issue." 

The FDA stressed concerns that these injuries have become more frequent, "likely due to the marked increase in the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic." 

Throughout the pandemic, as consumers leaned on the product more, the FDA noticed a surge in unsafe hand sanitizers due to packaging that closely resembles water bottles and dangerous and possibly toxic ingredients. 

Currently, the agency's rolling list of dangerous hand sanitizers is comprised of more than 260 products. 

The list began in June 2020 when the regulator observed an increase in hand sanitizers that purportedly contained ethanol but tested positive for methanol contamination.

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