Can toxic hand sanitizer fatalities be claimed under product liability?

by | Jul 1, 2021 | Product Liability | 0 comments

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Overview:

“Clean communities, healthy citizens,” the saying is relevant as the ongoing pandemic has taught the entire world the importance of cleanliness. Spooked by the uncertain future, most Americans amassed as many face masks, hand sanitizers, soaps, and other disinfectants as possible to brace up against the deadly coronavirus. Very soon, these products became inadequate in the market. Many new companies found this an opportunity to acquire their place in the market. To replenish the products, they sacrificed the safety standards of such products.

The World Health Organization has urged people to use soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers to chase away the novel coronavirus. Since using soap and water is impossible everywhere, people have found hand sanitizers to be an easier option.  The scarcity of popular brands during the rush has compelled people to buy newer products. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered more than 130 brands of hand sanitizers unsafe when casualties were reported. People flocked to product liability attorneys to file for the compensation.

As the coronavirus has no idea leaving the world in peace, even in today’s scenario, the adverse effects of hand sanitizers have gained prominence. When something which is made to safeguard us against germs turns out to be toxic, the reality is jarring. Let’s know more about hand sanitizer and the how to claim product liability here.

Key ingredients in hand sanitizers:

Usually, Ethanol/Ethyl alcohol or Isopropanol/Isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and water are mixed to form hand sanitizers. Emollients and artificial fragrance providers are blended with them. These sanitizers are powerful in eradicating most viruses and bacteria. As they are 60-95% alcohol-based, they are highly inflammable too. Benzalkonium Chloride is used in nontoxic hand sanitizers but is less effective when compared to alcohol-based sanitizers.

The World Health Organization has formulated two methods of production of hand sanitizers.

Formula 1: A combination of Ethanol 96%, Hydrogen Peroxide 3%, Glycerol 98%, and sterile distilled or boiled cold water.

Formula 2: A combination of Isopropyl alcohol 99.8%, Hydrogen peroxide 3%, Glycerol 98%, and sterile distilled or boiled cold water.

Reason for the ban on hand sanitizers:

Due to the rumors that sanitizers can disinfect even the viruses inside, many people worldwide drank sanitizers and ended up losing their lives and vision. Alcohol addicts who thought these alcohol-based sanitizers would quench their thirst for alcohol cravings during the lockdown also ended up in danger. All should remember that the toxic ingredients in the sanitizers are harmful.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled many unsafe hand sanitizer brands from the market. The reasons for the ban are as follows:

  1. The presence of Methanol or wood alcohol:

The presence of Methanol becomes the prominent reason for the ban on most brands. Methanol or wood alcohol is highly toxic when it is absorbed through the skin or when ingested.

Methanol is found naturally in the human body and plants in a small quantity. However, if 10 ml of methanol is ingested, permanent blindness can be the result. Death could occur if more is consumed. Methanol is primarily oxidized to form formaldehyde. Methanol is used as fuels and anti-freezing agents in pipelines and windshield washer liquid in industries.

While attempting to meet the demand in the market, some manufacturers are careless in the preparation of sanitizers. Whether methanol is deliberately added or accidentally occurring is a big question mark. While the distillation process, the manufacturers should ensure that the final product is safe without any trace of methanol. Because the use of methanol contaminated sanitizers result in irredeemable damages.

  1. The presence of 1-propanol:

1-propanol is an isomer of 2-propanol or isopropyl alcohol. It is 2-4 times powerful than ethanol and is toxic to the human body.

  1. Inappropriate packing:

Packing containers resembling consumable goods, like water bottles and soda bottles, leads to the chance of children consuming the toxic content.

  1. Microbial contamination :

Some hand sanitizers are contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia complex and Ralstonia pickettii.

  1. Wrong labelling:

Fraudulent labeling, such as not informing the people about actual ingredients, not giving warnings about the side effects if consumed, and giving wrong information like ‘FDA approved’. (FDA has not approved any hand sanitizers.)

Other toxic ingredients:

  • Artificial dyes: synthetic dyes or colorants in hand sanitizers may contain harmful things that may cause irritation or even can be toxic.
  • Parabens: parabens are used to prevent microbial growth in cosmetics and sanitizers. Continuous use of paraben potentially affects your health.
  • Polyethylene Glycol Compounds (PEGs): PEGs are commonly used in many consumer products. They are used for their penetration enhancing and softening properties. However, they indirectly help the other harmful ingredients to be absorbed by the body.
  • Hidden fragrance ingredients: some ingredients used to give fragrance can be harmful. If the fragrance-giving ingredient’s name is not mentioned in products, better to say no to them.

FDA list of toxic hand sanitizer:

You can get a complete list of banned hand sanitizers in FDA website. Some of the following harmful hand sanitizer brands are banned for

  1. The use of Methanol:
    • Medically Minded
    • ProtectoRx
    • Goose Creek
    • Ulta Beauty Collection & SS
    • IMC
    • Zoho fresh
    • Cleaner
    • Always Be Clean
    • Bio aaa
    • Vklean
    • Florance Morris
    • Nuuxsan
    • Modesa
    • SkinGuard24
    • Saniderm
    • All clean
  1. Having contaminants:
  • Durisan
  • Zanilast+
  • Harmonic nature
  1. Inappropriate packing:
  • Heal the world
  • Smart Care
  • Prairies Wolf distillery
  1. Fraudulent labeling:
  • Leafree ( labeled as edible)

Adverse effects of harmful hand sanitizer:

The health hazards formed by the use of unsafe hand sanitizers are seen below.

  • When a significant amount of methanol is absorbed by the skin, it can cause headaches, nausea, and vomiting. If consumed, grave consequences like blindness, nerve damages, seizures, coma and even death can be the result.
  • Extended use of parabens leads to endocrine disruption, cancer, and skin irritation and toxic to immune, reproductive and neurological systems.
  • Even ethanol and isopropanol can cause respiratory issues, irritation, internal organ damages, and death if consumed.
  • Ingestion of 1-propanol can damage the central nervous system and slow down the pulse rate, breathing, and reduction in consciousness level.

Safety measures to avoid casualties:

  • Check the label for the ingredients when you buy.
  • Avoid if the ingredients list contains methanol, parabens, fragrance, or PEG.
  • Keep the sanitizers out of the reach of children, and adult supervision is advised while using them.
  • Never consume sanitizer.
  • Manufacturers should avoid selling them in containers that look like food products.
  • Instructions to use the product should be mentioned clearly.
  • They should not give false promises like it could kill certain viruses unless it is scientifically proved

What to do if affected by toxic hand sanitizer?

If someone has accidentally ingested toxic hand sanitizer, take immediate action.

  • Have an emergency room visit
  • Inform local poison control center
  • If affected by a faulty recalled hand sanitizer, inform FDA.
  • If injured from a defective recalled product, contact product liability lawyers.

Theories used to prove product liability:

Few of the most prominent theories used to prove the liability in hand sanitizer defects are, negligence, misrepresentation or fraud, strict liability.

Negligence: The plaintiff has to prove that the manufacturer has a duty to the consumers and he has breached his duty by being negligent in following the safety standards to make sure of the quality of the sanitizer. His breach of duty and negligence has caused the injuries of the plaintiff.

Misrepresentation: Giving faulty claims like “FDA certified”, failing to provide vital instructions for safety, deceiving the customers like saying it fights against most of the germs without any proof are proved to have misled the plaintiff and caused the injury or death of the victim.

Strict liability: Under this, the plaintiff need not prove the liability. A manufacturer is responsible for the manufacturing defect of a product and is liable for the consequences.

Damages you can claim under product liability:

If affected by a defective hand sanitizer, you can claim economic as well as non-economic damages under product liability law such as

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of wages
  • Disability costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental agony
  • Punitive damages

Contacting a product liability attorney is a must:

Your product liability attorney will analyze if the product is on the recall list, and the list of defendants to be included like the manufacturers and sellers, and the maximum possible amount of claim availed from the lawsuit. If your case is one among the people, who are affected by the same product, you can join a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer. A product liability lawyer can help you assess your claim and decide on the prospective steps to be taken to attain your compensation.

If your loved one is injured due to toxic hand sanitizer, you can go for a claim under product liability, and if you have lost your loved one due to the faulty product, you can even go for a wrongful death claim to compensate for your losses.

You should inform the lawyer when, where, and how the person is affected, the name of the product, and details of the person injured or demised. The extent of the injuries and the nature of the poison should be reported. The medical records of the injured person and the autopsy report of the decedent are vital evidence in the product liability legal procedure. Medical chronology services sort out the relevant medical records like a piece of cake to back up your lawyer in the legal claims.

Final Thoughts:

Hand sanitizers are meant to disinfect our hands and not our internal organs. Be cautious when you buy a product and read the instructions before use to ensure your safety. Ignorance of the quality of the product may lead to irreparable losses. If injured, do not wait to seek immediate medical attention. Each second is precious in saving a life. Contact an experienced lawyer to know about the possibility of a claim suit under product liability to redeem yourself from the financial burden.

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