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'I found myself googling Woodies': Some schools were forced to close today over the hand sanitiser recall

The Department of Agriculture had warned that the product was recalled, citing possible public health concerns.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: PA Images

SCHOOL PRINCIPALS HAVE outlined how they were forced to close today after the Department of Education issued a notice last night that a brand of hand sanitiser being used in schools had been recalled.

It was warned that prolonged use of such a sanitiser – containing methanol rather than ethanol – may cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation and headaches.

Principals around the school weren’t told until late last night about the issue and, for those schools that had a significant supply of this product – and no immediate access to an alternative – they were not able to open today.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio 1′s Today with Claire Byrne, Professor Anne Looney who chairs St Patrick’s Boys National School in Drumcondra said she had found herself googling Woodies last night to try source an alternative supply.

She said: “I knew that probably local schools would be able to help. They’d been in touch this morning but there was too much uncertainty and this was actually dress up day in school so there was a slightly higher level of risk and the importance of having the sanitizer in place for every boy and every staff member coming in so getting that certainty – we couldn’t give that.

“Then on balance given the level of risk and the need to give certainty we made the decision to close.”

Schools were asked to follow the advice of the Department of Agriculture to cease using the hand sanisiter last night. The supplier of this product was one of 11 suppliers on the multi supplier framework for PPE for education settings. 

“On Friday, 23 October, schools that are impacted by this can make local arrangements to purchase stocks of hand sanitisers and can maximise the use of hand washing to support necessary hand hygiene,” the Department of Education said. 

“If a school that is impacted judges it necessary to do so, they can choose to close for the day or close early on Friday, 23 October,” it said. 

If a school has difficulty sourcing replacement hand sanitiser, they are being asked to contact the Department on the Covid-19 helpline and email address supplied to schools. 

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The Department of Agriculture had this week issued a product recall ViraPro hand sanitiser, citing “possible public health concerns”. On its biocidal product register, the department said it had set a date of Tuesday 20 October for the remaining product to be used or withdrawn from use.

Also speaking to Claire Byrne today, Tim Ó Tuachaigh from Gaelscoil Ros Eo in Rush said he was informed of the situation just before 11pm last night. 

“It seems that everything we use in the school is going to be affected by this,” he said. “To get something in for [8.30am] in the morning… because we were using this product in the school you can actually smell it in the air. I couldn’t get that out of the school in time for opening.”

He said he was aware children’s hearts would be broken as they would have turned up to school dressed up for Halloween in school. 

TheJournal.ie has asked the Department of Education how many schools did not open today as a result of this product recall. No response was received at the time of publication. 

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Sean Murray

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