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Study finds high levels of carcinogen in some hand sanitizer brands

Valisure said benzene usually isn't found in hand sanitizers, but to meet the high demand during the pandemic, the FDA permitted a small amount.
Credit: Jo Panuwat D - stock.adobe.com
Hand washing and hand sanitizer are tools to fight COVID-19.

Editor's note: The attached video is from Jan. 2021 and covers an FDA alert about some hand sanitizer from Mexico.

An independent study released last week found that some hand sanitizers contain levels of a known human carcinogen above the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limit.

Valisure, an independent lab that checks medications with Harvard- and Yale-trained scientists, tested 260 hand sanitizer products from 168 different brands and found 44 batches that contained high levels of benzene.

The World Health Organization, and other health agencies around the globe, claim that benzene has been tied to a wide range of health effects and diseases, including leukemia. The National Institute for Occupational Safety Health says humans can be exposed through “inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact."

Valisure explained that benzene usually isn't found in hand sanitizers, but to meet the high demand during the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA allowed a very small amount to be detected. However, the study explains that higher levels than accepted have been detected in the products it tested. 

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The independent lab is urging the FDA to immediately recall the contaminated batches and update its guidance on benzene. Valisure also pressed the government health agency to not add ingredients to improve smell, taste or appearance because it increases the risk that a child will consume it.

“Consumer use of hand sanitizers has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic and while it is important that consumers have access to products that help ensure personal and public safety, it is of utmost importance that consumers have access to products that are safe and not contaminated,” said founder and CEO of Valisure David Light in a statement.

He added: "The detection of hand sanitizer products that contain high levels of benzene is cause for significant concern as these products are potentially being used in high volumes several times daily by adults and children alike."

For a list of products tested by Valisure, click here.

CBS News reported that the FDA was reviewing Valisure's petition and continues to monitor the hand sanitizer market.

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In Oct. 2020, the FDA released a list of 202 hand sanitizers to avoid because the products contained methanol or 1-propanol contamination. Methanol, according to the FDA, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin. It can also potentially be deadly when ingested.

The vast majority of the flagged hand sanitizers were produced in Mexico, but a handful were produced in other countries including the U.S.

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