A new report is warning Americans to avoid a list of hand sanitizers that are contaminated with benzene, a toxic chemical known to cause cancer.
Valisure, a New Haven, Connecticut-based online pharmacy, examined 260 bottles of hand sanitizers from 168 brands and found 17% contained detectable levels of benzene.
Benzene, on par with asbestos, is a known human carcinogen.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) define benzene as a carcinogen, and lists "inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact" as routes of exposure.
The National Institutes of Health's genome research arm states a "carcinogen is a specific chemical or physical agent that has the ability to cause cancer."
Valisure's testing found 44 batches that contained the highest level of benzene at 16.1 parts per million (ppm). That is more than eight times the Food and Drug Administration's permitted interim limit of 2 ppm for benzene only in hand sanitizers.
"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 David Light, founder and chief executive officer of Valisure.
Valisure, which claims to be "the industry leader in proactively identifying pervasive drug quality problems" regularly tests pharmaceutical products.
Light expressed concern for his company's latest findings.
"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," said Light. "We urge FDA and manufacturers to act expeditiously to remove the contaminated lots from the market. It is also important for consumers to understand that uncontaminated hand sanitizer products are available and should continue to be used."
Valisure said these hand sanitizer brands have the highest levels of benzene:
- Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.
- The Creme Shop
- Star Wars Mandalorian
- Body Prescriptions
- Born Basic
- Beauty Concepts
- Miami Carry On
- Natural Wunderz
- Hand Clean 100
To ward off COVID-19, experts say pick one that contains mostly alcohol, and has few other ingredients.
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The CDC says hand sanitizers should be at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Other approved ingredients may include sterile distilled water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, according to the FDA.
Consumers should only use hand sanitizer when they can’t wash their hands with soap and water, said Barun Mathema, an infectious disease researcher at Columbia University. Hand washing is better at removing more germs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.