When I was twelve, my dad and I took a short trip to the store in an MG Midget, where we ran into one of my father’s coworkers. Towards the end of the conversation, he asked me a relatively simple technical question. I proceeded to expound on the answer into a not-so-simple depth. It didn’t take long, but what should have been a ten-second answer became a one-minute answer. When I finished, his coworker said something along the lines of, “Woah! That’s quite an answer!”
That’s the difference between Me vs The Other Guy.
Take, for example, the question of methanol absorption in hand sanitizers. Today’s article conveyed the FDA’s warning on hand sanitizers that contain methanol, as it can be absorbed through the skin and can quickly build up in the body as it takes so long for your body to metabolize.
While typing an e-mail to my father (thankfully unsent), I realized that if you want an in-depth and thorough analysis, I’m the right person for the job.
The sufficient answer is, “Check your labels. If it contains ethanol, it’s fine. If it contains methanol, discard it as as it can be absorbed through the skin and build up in the body over time because it takes so long to metabolize.”
But noo… Here was my draft to him:
Subject: Methanol is a BIG NO-GO for use as a hand sanitizer
Remember our conversation about this a couple of months ago?
Here’s the short answer:
“If you are purchasing hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, avoid purchasing products that contain methanol, a type of wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.”
KEY CONCERN: “Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.”
Take a guess as to the proscribed “treatment” for methanol poisoning (works for antifreeze (ethylene glycol) ingestion, too)…
In the body, an enzyme called “alcohol dehydrogenase” metabolizes methanol into formaldehyde, which is toxic. Another enzyme called “aldehyde dehydrogenase” quickly metabolizes it to formate which is not only toxic, but which the body has a very difficult time getting rid of in a timely manner. It’s the formate which produces all the toxic effects. Over time, folinic acid within the body will slowly metabolize formate into CO2 and H2O, but we’re talking days.
In fact, formate metabolization takes so long that even minute amounts of methanol absorbed through the skin can result in a build-up of formate.
– CNS: depression, vertigo, lethargy, coma, seizures, photophobia
– Vision: decreased acuity, photophobia, retinal edema, blindness
– GI: abdominal pain, pancreatitis
Here’s the GOOD NEWS:
“Ethanol has been used as an inhibitor of alcohol dehydrogenase in methanol intoxication for 50 years but has not been approved by the FDA. The standard loading dose of ethanol is 0.6 g/kg followed by a constant infusion to keep the blood ethanol level between 100 and 200 mg/dl. The average maintenance dose of ethanol is 100 mg/kg/hr but is significantly higher for alcoholics and must also be increased while the patient is on dialysis. Blood ethanol levels should be checked every 1 – 2 hours until a steady state has been reached and then every 2 to 4 hours (Figure 6).”
“To convert serum ethanol level to BAC, move the decimal point 3 places to the left. Example, a 100 mg/dL serum ethanol level is equivalent to a 0.1 BAC.
Here’s the kicker: 0.08 is the legal limit in most states. Thus, ethanol treatment requires one to be fairly drunk, and combined with the effects of formate, trying to do this yourself could kill you. The requisite BAC range is between 0.1 (significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement, slurred speech, with impairment in balance, peripheral vision, reaction time and hearing” and 0.2 BAC (gross motor impairment, blurred vision, total mental confusion, needs assistance in walking).
Again, this isn’t a regular drunk, so you cannot base it on how you feel. It’s formate intoxication combined with alcohol intoxication, and under those conditions it’s NOT something you want to attempt by yourself.
More from the article:
In recent weeks, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified several products that contain methanol. According to a press release issued on June 19, nine hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV, were found to contain methanol.
According to the release, samples of the Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ were tested. The Lavar Gel product “contains 81% methanol and no ethyl alcohol,” while CleanCare No Germ “contains 28% methanol.”
In early July, the organization identified additional hand sanitizer products containing methanol:
- Grupo Insoma’s Hand Sanitizer Gel Unscented, 70% alcohol)
- Transliquid Technologies’ Mystic Shield Protection Hand Sanitizer
- Soluciones Cosmeticas’ Bersih Hand Sanitizer Gel Fragrance Free and Antiseptic Alcohol 70% Topical Solution Hand Sanitizer
- Tropicosmeticos’ Britz Hand Sanitizer Ethyl Alcohol 70%
“Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects,” said the release. “Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.”