3 die in New Mexico from drinking hand sanitizer

New Mexico health officials say three people have died, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind after apparently drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol

SANTA FE, N.M. — Three people have died, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind after apparently drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol, New Mexico health officials said Friday.

The state Department of Health said the cases were reported to the New Mexico Poison Control Center, with the first coming in early May. The other cases occurred since May 29.

The health department couldn’t immediately say what the circumstances were in the recent cases, but authorities have noted that within the homeless community, people with substance abuse issues have been known to use sanitizer and other products as a substitute for alcohol.

Health officials have warned against drinking hand sanitizer, and officials said the use of hand sanitizers containing methanol for any purpose may result in poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers not to use nine brands of sanitizers that contained methanol.

A toxic form of alcohol, methanol can cause kidney damage, blindness and death. It may be fatal when inhaled, applied topically or ingested.

State Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said there is an antidote but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning, the better the chance of recovery.