Cancer-causing chemical found in some hand sanitizers poses ‘serious risk’

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This preventative product may have done more damage than good.

When COVID-19 initially gripped the United States, stores ran out of groceries, toilet paper and hand sanitizer — creating a void that was then filled by lesser-known brands.

However, some of those products have been found to contain high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

“These findings are alarming and reveal a serious potential risk to public health,” said David Light, the CEO of online pharmacy and product testing company Valisure, which recently analyzed 168 hand sanitizer brands.

The findings were disturbing: 17% of samples detected benzene and 8% of samples contained benzene amounts higher than the temporary limit the Food and Drug Administration set to help the market meet sanitizer demand, Bloomberg reported.

Valisure released its findings in a citizen petition to the FDA in which the company requests the agency take action regarding products with the highest levels of benzene. The majority of the problematic products were made in the US or China and were gels. A number of them were widely available, with some purchasable on Amazon and at Target stores. One of the more contaminated formulas was sold as a Baby Yoda-themed bottle. All of the worst contenders began being sold in April or May 2020. 

“It has been taken out of most products, and for it not to be taken out of a product that is here to prevent people from getting exposed to coronavirus is inexcusable,” founder of the government watchdog group Public Citizen Sidney Wolfe told Bloomberg. “Most of these don’t have any detectable levels. If it is possible to have hand sanitizers that don’t have any detectable levels, it is inexcusable that the FDA doesn’t ban any hand sanitizer that contains any detectable level.”

Earlier this year, the FDA issued an alert on hand sanitizer products from Mexico which were found to be contaminated with methanol, a chemical that is toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be life-threatening if ingested. Last year, the FDA alerted customers to stay away from other “toxic” hand sanitizers in a similar warning.

Brands identified in the March 24 report from Valisure include:

  • Artnaturals
  • Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.
  • Huangjisoo
  • TrueWash
  • The Crème Shop
  • Star Wars Mandalorian
  • Body Prescriptions
  • Born Basic
  • Beauty Concepts
  • PureLogic
  • Miami CarryOn
  • Natural Wunderz
  • clean-protect-sanitize
  • Puretize
  • Hand Clean 100

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