Ethanol concentration of alcohol sanitizers, disinfectants and hand cleaners (liquid or gel type)
Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, there has been a sharp increase in demand for alcohol sanitizers and disinfectants, as a result of which the products were thinly distributed at drugstores for a while. Now various sanitizers and disinfectants are seen on the market.
It is said that washing hands with running water and soap is effective for removing the novel coronavirus from hands. If it's not possible, applying an alcohol disinfectant (ethanol concentration 70 to 95 percent) to hands is said to be effective. With demand accelerated, PIO-NET received 689 inquiries about alcohol sanitizers and disinfectants (e.g. "Alcohol concentration is not labeled on the product," "Is the alcohol concentration labeled on the product correct?") in about 8 months (data registered from December 2019 through the end of July 2020). In FY2020, NCAC received several requests for testing alcohol sanitizers, disinfectants and hand cleaners from local consumer affairs centers. NCAC examined the products and found that some of them had labeling problems. On May 19, 2020, the Consumer Affairs Agency issued an order to some businesses that sold alcohol hand gel with ethanol concentration far less than the percentage labeled under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations
Therefore, NCAC decided to check the ethanol concentration and product labels of 30 brands of alcohol sanitizers, disinfectants and hand cleaners (3 brands of quasi-pharmaceutical products, 18 brands of cosmetics, and 9 brands of miscellaneous items) to share relevant information with consumers.
- The ethanol concentration of tested products was 20 to 80 percent by volume.
- The alcohol concentration was labeled on 14 products out of the 30 products. There was no tested product that the labeled ethanol concentration was over 10 percent lower than the actual percentage.
Ingredients other than ethanol
- Of the 30 products, one product (miscellaneous item) slightly contained isopropanol and methanol.
Labeling and advertising
- Some products had a difference between alcohol percentage on the product label and that on the seller's website.
- Concerning 6 products (3 brands of cosmetics and 3 brands of miscellaneous items), the alcohol concentration was shown on the sellers' websites but not on the product labels. There was no product that the actual ethanol concentration was over 10 percent lower than the percentage shown.
- There was no product labeled "disinfection" among the cosmetics and miscellaneous items.
- Four brands of cosmetics used prohibited expressions concerning efficacy and effects (e.g. "disinfection") on sellers' websites.
- It was considered that 15 out of the 30 products fell under the category of products which should be labeled "Flammable - Keep Fire Away" under the Fire Service Act. One of the 15 products was not labeled so.
Advice for consumers
- If it's not possible to wash your hands with water and soap, use an alcohol disinfectant approved as a pharmaceutical product or quasi-pharmaceutical product of which quality, efficacy and safety to human health have been confirmed.
- When you cannot get any pharmaceutical product or quasi-pharmaceutical product and have to use another product for disinfecting hands, check the ethanol concentration on the product label and choose a product with ethanol concentration 60 or more percent by volume.
- Highly concentrated alcohol is flammable and may catch fire. When you use such a product, keep away from flames and ventilate the room.
Request to the businesses
- Label "Flammable - Keep fire away" on containers of alcohol sanitizers, disinfectants and hand cleaners which fall under the category of hazardous materials based on the Fire Service Act.
- Describe efficacy and effects properly on websites, confirming the acceptable range of expression.
- Label the intended use and the ethanol concentration on each product so that consumers can make a suitable choice. Online description should be in line with the information on product labels.