Some hand sanitizers made during the COVID-19 pandemic found to have high levels of a carcinogen: study

·2 min read
Hand sanitizer
Woman applying hand sanitizer. Morsa Images/Getty Images Morsa Images/Getty Images
  • An independent lab tested 260 batches of hand sanitizers and detected benzene in 44 of them.

  • Some of the hand sanitizers were found to have as much as 8 times the approved limit of benzene.

  • The online pharmacy is calling on the FDA to recall all contaminated products.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Some hand sanitizers made to help meet demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic had high levels of a cancer-causing agent known as benzene, according to a new study.

Valisure, an independent laboratory based in New Haven, Connecticut, tested 260 hand sanitizers and found 44 were contaminated with benzene, which is deemed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a known human carcinogen. Benzene is associated with blood cancers such as leukemia.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates hand sanitizers, approved an interim limit of 2 parts per million of benzene in the product. Valisure found some of the batches tested contained as much as eight times that limit.

The lab also detected "unacceptably high levels" of methanol and acetaldehyde, which are possibly carcinogenic to humans.

"The presence of benzene, a known human carcinogen, and multiple other contaminants, in products widely recommended for the prevention of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 and regularly used by adults and children in large volumes makes these findings especially troubling," Valisure said in a letter to the FDA.

In the letter, company asked the FDA to recall the contaminated batches of hand sanitizer, conduct an investigation of the products, and provide information to the public, among other things.

The FDA did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on the matter.

Read more: A pivot to selling face masks saved small businesses. Here's what they learned from a year of selling the world's most in-demand product

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit more than a year ago, nervous consumers grabbed hand sanitizers off store shelves in droves to help protect themselves against infection.

Popular brands such as Equate and Suave, which didn't have any benzene detected in the test, sold out quickly. But some of the new products did and were found for sale at Amazon.com and Target, Bloomberg reported.

Amid the shortage of hand sanitizer, alcohol distillers across the US transformed their factories to help meet the demand, with Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey joining the fight. Some consumers even turned to making their own at home.

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