Alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer) is heavily used in the community and the healthcare setting to maintain hand hygiene. Methanol must never be used in such a product because oral, pulmonary and/or skin exposures can result in severe systemic toxicity and even deaths. However, sporadic cases of acute poisoning indicate that alcohol-based hand rub with undeclared methanol may be found in the market from time to time. The unexpected presence of methanol poses a serious threat to public health. Unintentional ingestion by young children and inadvertent consumption by older subjects as alcohol (ethanol) substitute can occur. Methanol is more lethal and poisoning often requires antidotal therapy, in addition to supporting therapy and critical care. However, specific therapy may be delayed because the exposure to methanol is initially not suspected. When repeatedly used as a hand rub, skin absorption resulting in chronic toxicity (e.g., visual disturbances) occurs, particularly if methanol induced desquamation and dermatitis are present. Nationwide surveillance systems, regional/international toxicovigilance networks and situational awareness among the healthcare professionals should facilitate the early detection, management and prevention of such poisoning incidents of public health significance.
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