Call to check chemicals in hand sanitisers

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Provided by New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has been urged to conduct tests on all hand sanitisers sold in the market to check for excess amounts of methanol and acetaldehyde, and make recalls if necessary.

Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) president Mohideen Abdul Kader also called on the ministry to disclose the number of reports on the adverse effects of hand sanitisers received from the public so far.

His proposal came after Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) issued a wholesale-level recall on 18 brands of hand sanitisers that contained acetaldehyde and/or methanol above the pharmaceutical pharmacopoeia limit.

“The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), on April 3 last year, invited the public to report their adverse effects caused by hand sanitisers to aduankos@npra.gov.my. Please disclose the statistics,” he told the New Straits Times.

For the safety of consumers, Mohideen advised the public to practise handwashing with soap and water instead of relying on hand sanitisers.

“Regular and overuse of hand sanitisers may be toxic and pose long-term health problems.

“An important tip is to apply the correct amount of sanitiser.

“A common mistake is using too little to cover both hands, with dispensers releasing too little in a single pump. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends using at least a coin-sized drop,” he said.

Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said all hand sanitiser products must be registered with the NPRA and the Health Ministry to ensure that they were safe for use before they went on sale at retail outlets.

Consumers, he said, must be responsible and well informed by reading labels on the hand sanitisers before making a purchase.

He added that one must look out for the alcohol (ethanol) content, which must be at 75 per cent and this fact must now be familiar to consumers after almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The onus is also on the sellers to ensure that they are selling hand sanitisers that are not hazardous to the people. The best ‘medicine’ to prevent virus transmission is still hand-washing with soap and water,” he said.

Dr Benji Teoh Tze Yuen, a consultant physician and dermatologist at Pantai Hospital Ampang, said many people had developed eczema in their hands due to the increased use of hand sanitisers during the pandemic.

Hand eczema, he said, could be caused by exogenous reasons, either irritation or allergies, although the former was a common cause.

“Hand sanitisers are mostly alcohol-based, either ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. Because of that, they can irritate the skin or worsen the hand eczema cases.

“A study in the United States that examined hand sanitisers in 25 hospitals found that the top five allergens (found in those sanitisers) were tocopherol (51.3 per cent), fragrance (41.3 per cent), propylene glycol (27.5 per cent), sodium benzoate (25.0 per cent) and cetyl stearyl alcohol (12.5 per cent).

“If a person knows that he is allergic to certain ingredients, then he must look out for products that do not contain such ingredients.”

Dr Teoh said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that consumers purchase and use hand sanitisers that contain at least 60 per cent of alcohol for effective outcome.

Additionally, he suggested that consumers use hand sanitisers that contain moisturisers to reduce skin irritation.

Dr Teoh also advised business owners not to dilute the hand sanitisers offered to their customers with water as this would reduce the alcohol concentration, hence making it less effective in killing the coronavirus.

The NPRA website showed that there were 245 products registered as sanitisers.

The products were categorised as cosmetics and used “for general hand hygiene”, which must contain at least 60 per cent alcohol, the amount recommended by the CDC.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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