Sanitizer :: Hand sanitizer found to pose abuse risk

Prison officials and poison control centers can add a new substance to their list of intoxicants i.e. hand sanitizer. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine notes the hand cleaners are around 70 percent alcohol.

A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from Suzanne Doyon, MD, the medical director of the Maryland Poison Center, and Christopher Welsh, MD, assistant professor in the School of Medicine, has raised awareness of the potential abuse of popular hand sanitizers and drawn national attention including an appearance on The Today Show.

Doyon and Welsh wrote that a 49-year-old inmate in the Maryland corrections system was described to Maryland Poison Center hotline specialists as intoxicated. Other inmates and staff reported the man had been drinking from a gallon container of Purell hand cleaner. “They described the man as usually calm, but found him red-eyed and “lecturing everyone about life”.

The hand sanitizer contains more than 70 percent alcohol by volume. It is the same type of alcohol found in liquor and has the same effect on the body. Other brands of hand sanitizers contain up to 95 percent alcohol.

In subsequent interviews, Doyon said the call was one of about a half dozen the center has received involving hand sanitizers.

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