Local health officials urge consumers to be vigilant

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Local health officials are advising people to be vigilant when it comes to buying products after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about potentially dangerous alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol.

The FDA issued a warning in late June about hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico that may contain methanol, a wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. The FDA expanded its list of potentially harmful hand sanitizers to 80 late last month.

The demand for products such as hand sanitizers has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FDA issued guidance in May to provide extra temporary flexibility in food labeling requirements to manufacturers in order to help reduce the impact of supply chain disruptions on product availability, according to its website.

Maura Esposito, health director of Chesprocott Health District, said she’s a little upset the FDA reduced its restrictions amid the pandemic.

“It’s a real shame it got thorough the system. The system is there for a reason,” Esposito said. “Somebody should’ve been looking at what was in this company’s manufacturing.”

Esposito said she has gone to stores and hasn’t been able to find the popular name brand sanitizer, Purell. People have had to turn to products they may not be familiar with, she said.

Jessica Stelmaszek, health director of the Naugatuck Valley Health District, urged people to pay attention to products they buy and what’s in those products.

“With hand sanitizer, people should look at the ingredients and where it’s manufactured and to make sure it’s safe and effective,” Stelmaszek said.

Stelmaszek said it’s always a good idea to check the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Environmental Protection Agency websites for any recalls or notices.