June 27 (UPI) -- Three people in New Mexico have died, one has been blinded and three others are in critical condition after drinking tainted hand sanitizer, health officials say.
The cases were reported in May in three New Mexico counties, and all are believed to have consumed hand sanitizer tainted with methanol.
According to New Mexico officials the recent poisonings were related to alcoholism.
The Food & Drug Administration has said methanol can be toxic when applied topically as well as when it is ingested.
"If you think you may have used or consumed hand sanitizer containing methanol, please seek medical care," state Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said. "An antidote to methanol poisoning is available, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning the better the chance of recovery."
Hand sanitizer has been in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and health officials believe consumers have inadvertently bought toxic versions that have appeared on the market in recent months.
On June 19 the Food & Drug Administration released a list of hand sanitizer brands that have been found to contain methanol, which it says is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers.
Most of the sanitizers on the list were produced by a Mexico-based company called Ekbiochem SA.
In its press release the FDA said it contacted Eskbiochem SA June 17 "to recommend the company remove its hand sanitizer products from the market."
"To date, the company has not taken action to remove these potentially dangerous products from the market. Therefore, FDA recommends consumers stop using these hand sanitizers and dispose of them immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour these products down the drain," the FDA announcement said.