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Gasoline as antiseptic has no basis; it’s also dangerous

President Rodrigo Duterte has claimed that in extreme circumstances, gasoline can be used to kill traces of the COVID-19 virus in the hands.

His statement has no basis—it is also dangerous.

Addressing the nation in an April 16 video to “air his grievances” to the public, the president gave tips on how to isolate a family member sick of COVID-19 in a single-room house.

After saying the mouth “should be covered with a handkerchief sprayed with alcohol” when coughing, he insinuated that things would be easier if the virus only lived in the hands:

Sabi ko nga kung ano lang, kamay-kamay lang walang problema ‘yan. Maglagay ka lang ng drum diyan, puno ng gasolina, ilagay mo lang ‘yang kamay mo diyan, patay na ‘yang (As I said, there would be no problem if the virus were just in the hands. Just fill a drum with gasoline, dip your hands in it and the virus will die)…

This is something people may “have to resort to in extremis,” Duterte added.

Gasoline, a flammable petroleum product used as fuel in vehicles, is not among the mixtures endorsed by local and international health agencies to rid hands of germs, more so the novel coronavirus.

This potent oil can be irritating to the skin. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it may cause allergies such as dermatitis. Prolonged contact may also cause redness, blisters or first- and second-degree burns.

The center also warned of “systemic effects” that can result from all routes of exposure to gasoline:

Exposure to low concentrations may produce flushing of the face, staggering gait, slurred speech, and mental confusion. Higher concentrations may result in unconsciousness, coma, and possible death due to respiratory failure.

In the Philippines, since the passage of the Biofuels Act of 2006, gasoline is mixed with 10 percent bioethanol, a renewable energy source from sugarcane and other plants.

Ethanol is an alcohol compound processed for various uses—from alternative fuel to alcoholic beverages to antiseptics such as ethyl alcohol.

But the ethanol mixed in gasoline is very different from the ethanol used to disinfect the body. Ethyl alcohol must be “pharmaceutical grade,” or safe enough to use in the hands.

The Department of Health and the World Health Organization recommend washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, which has been found effective in ridding germs in the hands and preventing various diseases, including COVID-19.

The scrubbing motion and length of time washing help “lift dirt, grease and microbes from skin,” according to the CDC.

If water is not available, the health department said ethyl or isopropyl alcohol with 70 percent concentration can be used to disinfect hands. (LS)


Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry. (n.d.). Medical management guidelines for gasoline. Retrieved from

Biofuels Act of 2006, Republic Act 9367. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 4). Show me the science - How to wash your hands. Retrieved from

Department of Health. (2020, February 10). Tamang paraan ng paghuhugs ng kamay. Retrieved from

Department of Health. (2020, March 2). COVID-FAQs. Retrieved from

Department of Health. (n.d.). 2019 nCOV FAQs. Retrieved from

Department of Health (Philippines) [OfficialDOHGgov]. (2020, April 9). Ugaliin ang Paghugas ng kamay o sanitize. Retrieved from

Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Gasoline. Retrieved from

RTVMalacanang. (2020, April 16). Talk to the people of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) [Video File]. Retrieved from (Watch from 20:12 to 20:23)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, April 1). Code of federal regulations Title 21, Sec. 184.1293 Ethyl alcohol. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture. (2019, December 9). Biofuels annual, Philippines. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (2009). Guide to local production:WHO-recommended handrub formulations. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Clean hands protect against infection. Retrieved from


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