A concerned Pennsylvania mother is speaking out against the dangers of young children using alcohol-based hand sanitizers after her kindergartener was rushed to the hospital with apparent alcohol poisoning.
What are the details?
The Pittsburgh-area mother said that her child was on just her second day of school for the 2021-22 academic year when she received a phone call that her daughter had collapsed.
According to a report from KDKA-TV, the incident took place at Moon Township area’s J.H. Brooks Elementary school.
The unnamed child reportedly set up her desk with her school supplies and a brand-new bottle of hand sanitizer, as directed by administrators, before she fell ill.
“The principal called and said to get to the school immediately,” the child’s mother recalled. “She was walking a little wobbly down the hall. By the time they got to the classroom, to the lunchroom, she fell and couldn’t sit up straight.”
The child was rushed to the hospital, where her mother said she was diagnosed with alcohol poisoning after having a blood-alcohol level of .23.
“She was completely out of it,” she revealed. “I tried to wake her and she opened her eyes briefly and she looked at me, but it was almost as if she looked straight through me. And she started to cry and then she laid back down. I was very scared. I had no idea. The medic didn’t have any idea, either.”
Hours later, hospital staff determined that the child had drunk six ounces of sanitizer, which contained 70% alcohol.
“This class, each student has their own sanitizer pump bottle at their desk with their name on it for their personal use,” the child’s mother said. “My daughter had consumed half of that bottle. She consumed six ounces of 70% alcohol.”
The child made a full recovery, but her mother is still concerned about possible long-term effects.
What is the school saying about this?
Superintendent Barry Balaski said that parents are responsible for whether the child uses personal sanitizer or district-provided hand-sanitizing stations.
“The health and wellness of our students is a priority,” Balaski said. “The district provides hand-sanitizing stations that are available in each of our schools. In addition, students are permitted to have hand sanitizers in their desk or backpack. However, students are not required to keep it in their desk or backpack, particularly if a parent/guardian does not want them to have it.”
Dr. Michael Lynch, who is head of Pittsburgh’s Poison Center, said that children have increasingly been ingesting hand sanitizer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Pennsylvania, in the last 18 months, more or less since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a 56% increase in hand sanitizer exposure cases compared to the 18 months prior to that,” he said. “Hand sanitizers will typically have 70% or so ethanol, which means they’re about 140 proof. Even a small amount can be enough to get intoxicated.”