Military officials are warning personnel to be careful with gel hand sanitizers to mitigate the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, citing the case of a Department of Energy contractor who had their hands burned after using one.
The Installation Safety Office at the Army’s Fort Jackson in South Carolina on Aug. 11 publicized a Food and Drug Administration’s bulletin that detailed the case of a DOE contractor.
“An employee at Department of Energy Federal Contractors Group used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as advised by hygiene recommendations,” the bulletin said. “Shortly after the application to his hands, but before the liquid disinfectant had evaporated and completely dried, the employee touched a metal surface which accumulated a static electrical charge, resulting in an ignition source.
“The ethyl-alcohol based disinfectant flashed, resulting in an almost invisible blue flame on both hands.”
The FDA also warned against using any sanitizer that used methanol, or wood alcohol, which it said “can be toxic when absorbed through the skin as well as life-threatening when ingested.”
Methanol exposure, it said, can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma and permanent damage to the nervous system or death.
The safety manager at Fort Jackson’s Installation Safety Office, Ron Ross, urged extreme caution to military personnel because “any incident is one too many.”
“We can never be too cautious,” he said. “Please exercise vigilance when using these gel sanitizers to ensure it is completely evaporated before touching any metal object and or other items that often harbor static electricity.”
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