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Hand sanitizer recall list grows

·2 min read

While hand cleaning has been touted as a fundamental part of stopping the spread of COVID-19, over 100 hand sanitizer products have been recalled due to potential health concerns.

Hand sanitizers are products, often alcohol-based, that are applied to the hands to kill pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. However, some of these products contain ingredients not permitted by Health Canada or they lack proper labelling, resulting in their recall.

To increase supply for ethanol for hand sanitizers, Health Canada allowed the temporary use of technical-grade ethanol, which contains more impurities than pharmaceutical- and food-grade ethanol. Manufacturers must get technical-grade ethanol from a Health Canada-authorized supplier – but some have not been following this directive.

Manufacturers using technical-grade ethanol must also include a risk statement on their product, which must disclose its presence and discourage its use on broken or damaged skin or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, among other information.

Some hand sanitizers include denaturants, compounds added to discourage ingestion of the product, some of which have not been approved for sale in Canada. Two unauthorized denaturants have been found in hand sanitizers sold in Canada: ethyl acetate, which may cause dry skin; and methanol, which may cause dermatitis, eye and upper respiratory irritation and headaches.

To date, 108 products have been affected by these recalls, five of which were just added on Oct. 13. For the full list of products, see the Health Canada Advisory RA-73385.

On the upside, there are many approved products available. Currently, there are 4,654 products approved by Health Canada. These include products based on compounds other than alcohol, such as triclosan, which is primarily antibacterial and less effective against viruses.

Despite the widespread adoption and use of hand sanitizers during the COVID-19 pandemic, no hand sanitizers in Canada have been approved with COVID-19 related claims, according to the federal government.

Hand cleaning remains central to preventing the transmission of COVID-19, and hand washing using soap and water for 20 seconds is the recommended best practice.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times