Study Finds High Levels of Carcinogen in 44 Hand Sanitizers Sold During Pandemic (Including Two From Disney)
A study found that some hand sanitizers approved during the COVID-19 pandemic tested positive for carcinogens.
Valisure, an independent laboratory in New Haven, Conn., tested 260 hand sanitizer products from manufacturers given interim FDA approval and found that 44 contained benzene, which the CDC says can cause blood cancers like leukemia.
Of the 44 hand sanitizer products found to contain carcinogens, none were from suppliers associated with the promotional products industry. View the full list here.
The regulation of hand sanitizer products varied over the last year, as the FDA relaxed some of its own standards to allow more products to hit the market at a time where they were so desperately needed. The FDA temporarily approved a limit of 2 parts per million of benzene in hand sanitizer, but Valisure reportedly found that some of the products contained as much as eight times that amount.
In a statement, Valisure recommended that the FDA request a recall of identified batches that contain a high amount of benzene, conduct thorough investigations of the suppliers’ manufacturing processes, update current FDA standards regarding hand sanitizers, and develop “guidance documents defining the mass of a standard daily application of hand sanitizer so that a daily exposure of benzene and other contaminants can be calculated for hand sanitizer products.”
There have been previous reports of hand sanitizer products deemed unsafe for a variety of reasons, and some concern that people ignorant of the intended use of hand sanitizer could experience serious illness or death from ingesting hand sanitizer. In the months following the FDA's decision to relax standards, it's added hundreds of hand sanitizers to a list of potentially harmful products.
Valisure quoted the FDA in its statement, saying that in March 2020, calls to poison control in regards to hand sanitizer were up 79% over the previous year. Most of those calls were for “unintentional exposure in children 5 years of age of younger.”
As the pandemic winds down and hand sanitizer demand eventually subsides to levels closer to normal, it’s likely that the FDA will reverse its relaxed temporary standards. When that happens, the companies that picked up some of the slack will probably stop producing sanitizer, making it easier to find supply from manufacturers experienced in hand sanitizer production.
The study's findings also underscore the importance of working with trusted suppliers with track records of product safety and compliance.