Three People Died and One Is Permanently Blind After Drinking Hand Sanitizer in New Mexico
WorldWire Service

Three people died and one is permanently blind from methanol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer in New Mexico, health officials said.

An additional three people are in critical condition, the New Mexico Department of Health said in a statement. “All seven people are believed to have drunk hand sanitizer containing methanol,” it said.

The cases were reported to New Mexico Poison Control over several weeks in May, and are related to alcoholism, health officials said. They did not provide additional details on the victims or where the incidents happened.

“If you think you may have used or consumed hand sanitizer containing methanol, please seek medical care,” state health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said in a statement. “An antidote to methanol poisoning is available, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning the better the chance of recovery.”

Hand sanitzer
Small bottles of hand sanitizer selling at a grocery store in New York City on March 9, 2020. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Some people have been known to use hand sanitizer to get intoxicated due to its alcohol content. Before the pandemic, hand sanitizer was banned in most prisons based on fears that inmates would drink it or use it to start fires. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that facilities consider relaxing restrictions on alcohol-based sanitizer to help combat CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

NTD Photo
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19. (Niaid-RML/AP/The Canadian Press)

This week, the Food and Drug Administration urged people not to use hand sanitizer products manufactured by Eskbiochem SA due to the potential presence of a toxic chemical.

Federal officials discovered methanol—which can be toxic when absorbed through skin or ingested—in samples of hand sanitizers produced by the Mexican company. It’s unclear whether the victims in New Mexico used the same type of hand sanitizers.

Exposure to significant amounts of methanol can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.

The CNN Wire and NTD staff contributed to this report.