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The hand sanitizer you bought to avoid the new coronavirus infection may be adulterated. This apprehension comes from a study conducted by the Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) on more than 100 hand sanitizers available in the country. 

The study was done on as many as 122 hand sanitizers available in the cities of Mumbai and Thane in Maharashtra, where researchers found about half of the total number of sanitizers to be adulterated. Out of them, at least 4-5 of these adulterated sanitizers have been found to contain the toxic chemical methanol, which can cause serious side effects such as glaucoma and blindness.

The report on the study stated that the alcohol content in 37% of these hand sanitizer samples did not match the prescribed levels. Ten percent of the total hand sanitizers are being sold without any claim of antimicrobial properties, while one of these premium daily use hand sanitizers is not effective against viruses at all. 

Dr MS Kamath, Secretary of the Consumer Guidance Society of India said, “(An) adulterated hand sanitizer is one whose details do not contain specific information about prescribed substances. These days, most retail stores and pharmacies store hand sanitizers in batches. Due to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, many unscrupulous manufacturers have also entered this business. They resort to the fear of epidemics to earn quick profits.”

Read more: The right way to wash your hands to avoid coronavirus infection

According to the CGSI study, methanol has been added to at least five hand sanitizers in the market. These include Instant Hand Sanitizer of Crivi Herbals Pvt Ltd, Medicare of Avon Laboratory, Saniton of On Pharma Pvt Ltd, Clean Hands of Awadh Engineering Pvt Ltd and another hand sanitizer made by Misty Gold Equinox Industries. 

In its press release, CGSI stated, "Ethanol, used in the manufacture of sanitizers, cannot be obtained without an alcohol permit and it is strictly regulated. Synthetic alcohols available in the market are quite expensive. Therefore, some manufacturers use toxic methyl alcohol (methanol) to diagnose this problem. Adulterated manufacturers can mix their methanol-based sanitizers in branded containers and sell them in the market.”

In an advisory issued by CGSI, they say: “Consumers should pay attention to the information given on the product label (warning prescription). Labels giving information related to the drug should contain details of related materials. Hand sanitizers should be kept in a cool place and away from the reach of children. Non-alcoholic based products (sanitizers) are not effective against COVID-19.” 

In addition, CGSI has said that it will soon send reports related to its study to the central government and the top US drug agency the FDA.

Read more: How to make effective hand sanitizer at home

In a similar development in the United States a few days earlier, the Food and Drug Administration Agency (FDA) warned consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers which were being sold in the market in containers that look like packaging for food and drinks, putting people at risk of injuries or even death. The agency found hand sanitizers being sold in beer cans, food pouches for children, water as well as juice bottles. In fact, the FDA also found traces of artificial food flavours in hand sanitizers as well.

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