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3 die in New Mexico from drinking hand sanitizer

Three people have died, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind after apparently drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol, New Mexico health officials said Friday.

The state Department of Health said the cases were reported to the New Mexico Poison Control Center, with the first coming in early May. The other cases occurred since May 29.

The health department confirmed that the cases were related to alcoholism. Authorities have noted that people with substance abuse issues, particularly within the homeless community, have been known to use sanitizer and other products as a substitute for alcohol and liquor.

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Health officials have warned against drinking hand sanitizer, and officials said the use of hand sanitizers containing methanol for any purpose may result in poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers not to use nine brands of sanitizers that contained methanol.

A toxic form of alcohol, methanol can cause kidney damage, blindness and death. It may be fatal when inhaled, applied topically or ingested.

State Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said there is an antidote, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning, the better the chance of recovery.