Hand sanitizer may kill germs, but the idea of giving it to pre-schoolers makes these parents sick.
A recently opened city-run pre-K site in Sunset Park that hasn’t had running water or air-conditioning since the school year began was giving alcohol-based hand sanitizer to toddlers, officials said. Kids also had to drink bottled water and sweat it out in a steamy gym since the site opened in September, but parents were more concerned that their wee ones were exposed to the sanitizer — which can contain far more alcohol by volume than hard liquor — one mother said.
“My worry is the alcohol sanitizer,” said Ercilia Castillo, whose son attends the school. “It’s not safe.”
The soap-less sanitizers can contain between 60 percent and 80 percent ethyl alcohol — that would be 120-160 proof it was liquor. By contrast, a typical bottle of whiskey typically contains 40 percent alcohol, so a drop of sanitizer packs way more wallop than a drop of hooch.
Poison control centers nationwide have responded to more than 85,000 calls for kids under 12 drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizer since 2011, according to a report from the Georgia Poison Center. One 6-year-old Georgia girl almost died after she ingested a few squirts of the stuff this year, registering a blood-alcohol content of .179 — more than twice the legal limit for driving in New York, according to a television news report on children poisoned by drinking hand sanitizer.
Nearly 90 kids at the school used the high-octane hand sanitizer until officials realized the error, an education department honcho said.
“We realize now that it was alcohol-based, and we switched to non-alcohol-based,” said Diane Gounardes, the district’s p re-K director.
Kids could flush toilets at the Brooklyn Army Terminal facility, but the water wasn’t safe to drink or use for hand washing, officials said.
The water has been out since before school started, but the city didn’t send a letter to alert parents until Oct. 5 — nearly a month after the first bell rang. The city should have gone directly to parents immediately, because preschoolers can’t always identify when something is out of the ordinary, and don’t always know to tell parents, a local activist said.
“We’re talking about 4-year-olds who can’t speak for themselves,” said Maria Roca, who heads the group Friends of Sunset Park.
School officials told parents verbally, but pledged to keep better lines of communication, one honcho said.
“Moving forward, we’re going to be more proactive with the letter-writing,” said education department honcho Stephanie Crane.