Some Hand Sanitizers Found To Have Higher Than Allowed Benzene Levels

CBS News found some of these products containing benzene for sale on major retailers' websites. The leading brand, Purell, and many others had no detectable levels of benzene.

Video Transcript

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- Now, a CBS 4 News health alert. During the pandemic, we have relied on hand sanitizer to help keep us safe. But now, in an independent study, researchers from the company called Valisure say they detected higher than allowed levels of a potential cancer-causing chemical compound in 21 products from 15 different brands.

- CBS News found some of these products containing benzene for sale on major retailers' websites. Most-- including the leading brand, Purell-- had no detectable levels of benzene. That's the good news. CBS News Chief Correspondent Dr. John LaPook has more.

JOHN LAPOOK: David Light runs Valisure, an independent lab and pharmacy that tests drug products for quality. Over the last several months, they started finding benzene-- a known carcinogen-- in some hand sanitizers.

DAVID LIGHT: I would say I was shocked. It might very well be the most well-known compound that is dangerous to humans.

JOHN LAPOOK: Valisure's chief scientific officer Kaury Kucera walked us through the testing process.

So this peak represents the amount of benzene that's in this bottle?

KAURY KUCERA: Correct.

JOHN LAPOOK: And that's high?

KAURY KUCERA: That's high.

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JOHN LAPOOK: In the early days of the pandemic, the FDA relaxed standards on benzene levels in liquid hand sanitizers, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande.

LEONARDO TRASANDE: There was an effort to really increase hand sanitizers and the availability

JOHN LAPOOK: The FDA allowed liquid hand sanitizers to contain benzene in a concentration of up to 2 parts per million. Valisure tested hundreds of products for benzene. Valisure says of 260 products, 21 from 15 brands tested above the FDA interim limit. The top three tested between six to eight times higher than allowed.

Batches of this sanitizer, with a Baby Yoda on the front, contain nearly double the allowable amount. Attempts to get a response from manufacturer Best Brands Consumer Products were unsuccessful. CBS News found the product available on Amazon, who told CBS News it is investigating the products in question.

DANIEL TEITELBAUM: There's no reason for that kind of a product to be on the market.

JOHN LAPOOK: Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum is an expert on benzene exposure. He warns benzene absorption could be increased in workers who use a hand sanitizer contaminated with benzene, then put on gloves that prevent evaporation.

DANIEL TEITELBAUM: There are people who have special risks. It's a lot of health care personnel. It's a lot of cleaning and sanitation people.

JOHN LAPOOK: In a statement, the Walt Disney Company said it launched independent testing on the Baby Yoda sanitizer and has instructed Best Brands to withdraw the product until more is learned. Dr. John LaPook, CBS News, New York.

- Well, if you want to see which products were flagged by Valisure, we have them for you at cbsmiami.com. Valisure has petitioned the FDA to launch an investigation and to recall the ones on their list. The FDA says it's reviewing the petition, and they will continue to test sanitizer products.