Valisure, a Connecticut-based online pharmacy known for testing products for quality and consistency, has found that some hand sanitizers made widely available during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 may contain high levels of benzene.
Benzene is a chemical that has been used in many different industries, but prolonged exposure to the chemical is known to cause acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) as well as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Oftentimes, due to the so-called “latency period”, the diagnosis of AML or MDS will likely be made many years after the exposure to benzene.
According to this March 2021 article, “Carcinogen Found in Hand Sanitizers That Plugged Covid Gap“, Valisure tested 260 bottles of hand sanitizer from 168 brands. The findings showed nearly 17% of the hand sanitizer samples contained detectable levels of benzene. Additionally, 8% of the samples contained benzene at levels above the approved temporary limit of two parts per million that was set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hand sanitizers in 2020.
As you may recall, after numerous recommendations by health officials to wash their hands to avoid contracting the coronavirus / COVID-19, many people rushed to the stores and quickly wiped the shelves clean of name-brand hand sanitizers, such as Purell or Suave. In an effort to ease this hand sanitizer supply squeeze, the FDA temporarily increased the allowable limit of benzene to two parts per million. However, from past medical studies, we know that benzene can be only tolerated at this higher level for a relatively short period of time.
The March 2021 article, “Carcinogen Found in Hand Sanitizers That Plugged Covid Gap” shows the top 15 brands with the highest levels of detectable benzene from the Valisure study. Some of the brands mentioned in that article were found sold at Target and online on Amazon.com:
Most hand sanitizers Valisure found and tested were gel products. The pharmacy’s test results were verified by Yale University’s Chemical and Biophysical Instrumentation Center and Boston Analytical, a private lab. On Wednesday, [March 24, 2021,] Valisure asked the Food and Drug Administration to take action on the contaminated products.
Hand sanitizer brands with bottles testing for the highest levels of benzene detected by Valisure:
2. Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.
5. The Creme Shop
6. Star Wars Mandalorian
7. Body Prescriptions
9. beauty concepts
11. Miami Carry On
12. Natural Wunderz
15. Hand Clean 100
The highest levels of benzene were detected in the artnaturals sanitizer products at nearly 16 parts per million, which is 8-times more than the temporary 2 parts per million limit currently set by the FDA in 2020.
Although benzene is sometimes used in the alcohol purification process, it is typically removed in the final steps of manufacturing. Gel hand sanitizers, which made up the majority of sanitizers tested by Valisure, sometimes add a powder called a carbomer, which is often made using benzene, as a thickening agent. Valisure filed a Citizen Petition on March 24, 2021, with the FDA to report the list of hand sanitizer products that found to have high benzene levels.
For more information, view our Benzene Overview page, or our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Written by: Lauren Schwab, Legal Assistant
Law Offices of Thomas J. Lamb, P.A.