The Department of Education has said that it learned of a recall of hand sanitisers being used in schools due to public health fears on Tuesday, two days before it alerted schools.
The Department said in a statement on Thursday that the notice from the Department of Agriculture came informally by phone and was not formally issued until Thursday afternoon.
“Details of the issues and public health concerns arising were not available at that point and DAFM indicated that further information and formal notification would follow,” it said.
The Department of Education said an update was sought on Wednesday and it issued an advisory notification to schools and the media as soon as it received a formal statement from the Department of Agriculture.
It comes as the HSE has said that a revoked brand of hand sanitiser that led to a number of schools closing can no longer be legally used in Ireland.
The ‘Virapro Hand Sanitiser’ used in schools has been recalled after it was proven to cause skin issues, headaches and respiratory issues, prompting the Department of Education to announce schools could close early if they had inadequate supplies of alternative products.
Virapro was one of 11 suppliers on an approved list for schools, with about 120 contacting the Department saying they have been impacted by the recall.
One mother with two daughters in an affected schools said her children had been left in tears after prolonged use of the product.
I’m so angry that somebody has made money and my kid’s bodies have been damaged from it
“I’m so angry that somebody has made money and my kid’s bodies have been damaged from it,” Karen Gillen said.
“Their hands started to develop dry, very cracked sores. It reached the stage, by about two and a half weeks ago, the two of them were crying at night.”
“I’m very annoyed that somebody has made a profit off this and somebody has been negligent, authorised and told our schools and told us that it was safe for our kids. My children’s bodies have been exposed to something that has hurt them, and somebody needs to be accountable,” Ms Gillen said.
In a statement to the Dáil this evening, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said he is conducting a review into the handling of the sanitiser recall in schools and healthcare facilities.
“The Department is taking this matter very seriously… and will continue to follow up and investigate the matter,” he said.
“I was informed of the situation yesterday for the first time and having reviewed the matter today, I’m very clear that it would have been much more appropriate for my department to have followed up with a public notice and communications with other government departments immediately upon issuing the withdrawal notice to the company on the 16th of October.”
Around 10pm last night, the Department of Education said it had been informed that the hand sanitiser was being recalled by the Department of Agriculture.
The Department of Agriculture said ‘Virapro Hand Sanitiser’ had been removed from a list of approved products due to “possible public health concerns”.
Tests were carried out by the Department which found it did not comply with regulations around hand sanitiser products.
In a statement, the Department said prolonged use of Virapro can cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation as well as headaches.
The company which makes the product has been told to recall all of its bottles immediately.
According to The Irish Times, the Department of Education said that all schools should check whether the product has been used in their school and make local arrangements to buy alternative hand sanitiser and to increase hand washing in the meantime.
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Last night, the Department of Education said schools may choose to remain closed today, or send children home early if they deem it necessary.
It said that funding will be supplied to schools to “enable them to purchase the necessary supplies from an alternative supplier.”
The Department of Agriculture issued an immediate recall last night, while its biocidal product register said the sanitiser should have been withdrawn from the market on Tuesday.
The Department of Agriculture also said that an investigation into the product is ongoing.