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Hand sanitiser poisoning reported

Wednesday December 2nd 2020

The widespread use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser is creating risk of accidental poisoning, a researcher warns today.

In BMJ Evidence Based Medicine today (2 December), Dr Georgia Richards of the University of Oxford, UK, reports on two fatal cases.

She outlines two Prevent Future Death case reports and recommends actions to help avoid intentional and accidental ingestion of sanitisers.

“Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are liquids, gels or foams that contain 60-95% ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70-95% isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol),” she writes. “Warnings about the toxicity and lethality of intentionally or unintentionally ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitisers have not been widely disseminated.”

She describes two deaths that occurred in hospitals in England before the current pandemic. In the first, a young woman detained in a psychiatric unit was found dead having drunk from a container of hand sanitising gel, which was readily accessible.

Her death was attributed to ingestion of alcohol and the antidepressant venlafaxine, which together fatally suppressed her breathing.

In the second case, a 76 year old man with probable vascular dementia swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitiser foam, attached to the foot of his hospital bed. He developed complications and died from acute alcohol poisoning and pneumonia, secondary to acute delirium and coronary artery disease.

“Had appropriate government actions been taken at a national level when the first case was reported, the second death and the hundreds of associated poisonings reported to the National Poisons Information Service in 2019 and 2020 might have been prevented,” Dr Richard writes.

She is calling for a public health campaign and clear warning labels. “While governments and public health authorities have successfully heightened our awareness of, and need for, better hand hygiene during the COVID-19 outbreak, they must also make the public aware of the potential harms,” she concludes.

Richards, G. C. et al. Coroners’ concerns: Alcohol-based hand sanitisers: a warning to mitigate future poisonings and deaths. BMJ Evidence Based Medicine 2 December 2020 doi: 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111568


Tags: Flu & Viruses | MRSA & Hygiene | UK News

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