Four-year old girl intoxicated from hand sanitizer-Truth!

Four-year old Girl Intoxicated From Hand Sanitizer-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:

The author of the email says her 4-year old daughter ate hand sanitizer at pre-school and was rushed to the hospital with potentially deadly alcohol intoxication.

The Truth:

The story is true, although with one glaring factual error.

According to a Fox 23 Tulsa television interview with her parents, Matt and Lacey Butler, Little Halle was in a pre-kindergarten class at Okmulgee Primary School in Okmulgee, Oklahoma when a teacher did what seemed to be right, gave Halle some hand sanitizer to clean her hands before eating lunch.  Instead of rubbing it in, however, Halle ate it.  She licked it from her hand.  Shortly afterwards her behavior was alarming enough that she was taken to a local hospital.  Matt Butler says that when he arrived at the emergency room, his daughter was leaning against a wall, that her eyes would not focus, and she could not walk.

Doctors determined that she was intoxicated.

The eRumor says her blood alcohol level (BAC) was 85 percent, which nobody would survive so that figure is obviously wrong.   A BAC of .40% would be considered a lethal level.

Hand sanitizers have an alcohol level of more than 60 percent.  Hard liquor, by comparison, is 40 percent alcohol while most beers are less than 5 percent alcohol. 

Unlike other poisons and alcoholic beverages, however, most hand sanitizers are easily accessible to children and most of us would not think about the danger.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that alcohol can cause drunkenness as well as serious poisoning leading to seizures, coma, and even death in young children—and that children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol than adults.

Updated 8-28-09