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Hand Sanitizer Hazardous to Children

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Forwarded email cites danger of children licking or eating hand sanitizer, which contains a high percentage of alcohol and can cause accidental intoxication or alcohol poisoning


Description: Email flier
Circulating since: May 2007
Status: True (see details below)

Example:
Email text contributed by John V., May 14, 2007:

Hand Sanitizer alcohol poisoning

Ok. I don't know where to begin because the last 2 days of my life have been such a blur. Yesterday, My youngest daughter Halle who is 4, was rushed to the emergancy room by her father for being severely lethargic and incoherent. He was called to her school by the school secretary for being "very VERY sick." He told me that when he arrived that Halle was barely sitting in the chair. She couldn't hold her own head up and when he looked into her eyes, she couldn't focus them.

He immediately called me after he scooped her up and rushed her to the ER. When we got there, they ran blood test after blood test and did x-rays, every test imaginable. Her white blood cell count was normal, nothing was out of the ordinary. The ER doctor told us that he had done everything that he could do so he was sending her to Saint Francis for further test.

Right when we were leaving in the ambulance, her teacher had come to the ER and after questioning Halle's classmates, we found out that she had licked hand sanitizer off her hand. Hand sanitizer, of all things. But it makes sense. These days they have all kinds of differents scents and when you have a curious child, they are going to put all kinds of things in their mouths.

When we arrived at Saint Francis, we told the ER doctor there to check her blood alcohol level, which, yes we did get weird looks from it but they did it. The results were her blood alcohol level was 85% and this was 6 hours after we first took her. Theres no telling what it would have been if we would have tested it at the first ER.

Since then, her school and a few surrounding schools have taken this out of the classrooms of all the lower grade classes but whats to stop middle and high schoolers too? After doing research off the internet, we have found out that it only takes 3 squirts of the stuff to be fatal in a toddler. For her blood alcohol level to be so high was to compare someone her size to drinking something 120 proof. So please PLEASE don't disregard this because I don't ever want anyone to go thru what my family and I have gone thru. Today was a little better but not much. Please send this to everyone you know that has children or are having children. It doesn't matter what age. I just want people to know the dangers of this.

Thank you
Lacey Butler and family


Analysis: True. On May 14, 2007, Fox23-TV in Tulsa reported that 4-year-old Halle Butler of Okmulgee, Oklahoma was hospitalized with symptoms of intoxication after ingesting a small amount of hand sanitizer in her pre-kindergarten classroom.

The product, which consists of 62% ethyl alcohol (more than most hard liquors), had been applied to the children's hands by their teacher just before lunchtime, but instead of rubbing it in, Halle licked it off her skin and essentially got drunk. She was fine once the alcohol had worked its way through her system, but the incident threw such a fright into parents and administrators alike that further use of the product was banned in the school.

I should note that the email contains one apparent factual error (or perhaps it's only a typo), namely that the Halle's blood alcohol level was measured at "85%" in the emergency room — an impossibly high percentage. The author probably intended to write ".085"

A similar mishap was reported last January in Minneapolis, where 2-year-old Sydney Moe ate some of the hand sanitizer gel her mother kept by the sink and was rushed to the emergency room with a blood alcohol concentration of .10 percent -- legally drunk, by the statutes in most states. She, too, recovered quickly, but the Minnesota Poison Control Center warned that the high alcohol content of hand sanitizers and other common household products such as mouthwash and perfumes can pose a serious health threat to small children and should be kept out of their reach except under parental supervision. Some hand sanitizers contain isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol, making them even more dangerous to ingest.


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Sources and further reading:

Getting Drunk Off Hand Sanitizers
Chicago Tribune Health Blog, 22 May 2007

Don't Drink Hand Sanitizer for Alcohol
WebMD.com, 31 January 2007

Hand Sanitizer Makes Girl Drunk
Fox News, 14 May 2007

Hand Sanitizer Hazards
WCCO-TV News, 20 January 2007


Last updated: 05/25/07

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