Some widely available hand sanitizers that American consumers bought last year to prevent coronavirus infection contain high levels of a chemical known to cause cancer, an analysis from a testing company found.
A variety of hand cleaners that flooded the market after point-of-sale pillars disappeared contain high levels of benzene, according to Valisure, a New Haven, Connecticut-based online pharmacy that tests products for quality and consistency.
Causes of benzene cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services The cancer research arm of the World Health Organization places it in the highest risk category, on par with asbestos.
Valisure analyzed 260 bottles from 168 brands and found that 17% of the samples contained detectable levels of benzene. Twenty-one bottles, or 8%, contained benzene above two parts per million, a time limit the FDA set for liquid hand sanitizers to facilitate supply reduction.
That level “can be tolerated for a relatively short period of time,” the FDA said. said in June. Fifteen brands were represented among the 21 bottles with the highest levels of contamination. The samples come from the shelves of stores near its headquarters and online outlets, Valisure said.
To view Valisure’s citizen petition to the FDA, including a list of brands identified with high levels of benzene, Click here.
Urged on by politicians and health officials to wash their hands, consumers quickly depleted supplies of household names like Purell and Suave. While those brands, like most of those tested, did not contain unsafe benzene levels, many new entrants did, according to Valisure. Some of these contaminated disinfectants were found for sale in Amazon.com Inc. and Target Corp. outlets
Most of the hand sanitizers that Valisure found and tested were gels. The pharmacy’s test results were verified by Yale University. Center for Chemical and Biophysical Instrumentation and Boston Analytical, a private laboratory. On Wednesday, Valisure asked the Food and Drug Administration to act on contaminated products.
Brands of hand sanitizers with bottles that test the highest levels of benzene detected by Valisure
1. artnaturals 9. beauty concepts 2. Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc. 10. PureLogic 3. huangjisoo 11. Miami Carry On 4. TrueWash 12. Natural Wunderz 5. The cream shop 13. clean-protect-disinfect 6. Star Wars Mandalorian 14. Purify 7. Body recipes 15. Hand clean 100 8. Born Basic
“These findings are alarming and reveal a serious potential risk to public health,” Valisure said in a petition signed by the CEO. David Light and other executives. Previously, the pharmacy found high levels of other carcinogens in drug components manufactured abroad for the US market.
Read more: America’s love affair with cheap drugs has a hidden cost
It is not clear how benzene was present in the products. It may have been introduced during the manufacturing process when the germ-killing alcohol is purified, Valisure said.
Among the most contaminated hand cleaners were artnaturals, Scentsational Inc. Soaps and Candles, The Creme Shop and a Baby Yoda-themed bottle from Best Brands Consumer Products Inc. began selling the cleaners that were tested by Valisure in April or May 2020, according to FDA records. An artnaturals disinfectant contained the highest amount of benzene of those sampled, at 16 parts per million.
Calls and emails to manufacturers and retailers requesting comment were not returned earlier in the day from the US Walt Disney Co., which airs “The Mandalorian” series featuring the Baby Yoda character, did not respond. immediately to a request for comment.
Benzene has been linked to certain blood cancers, such as leukemias. Cigarette smoke accounts for about half of benzene exposure in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. Workers in certain chemical industries are at risk of exposure to the material, which is used to make plastics and rubber.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says absorption and ingestion through the skin are also possible. In 1990, a local environmental official in North Carolina discovered benzene in Perrier water bottles that prompted the company to conduct a massive recall and stop distribution to 120 countries. The company resumed bottling shortly after the issue was identified and resolved, and was purchased by Nestlé SA in 1992.
Origin from USA, China
Focusing on the safety of hand sanitizer, the FDA in January blocked imports of products from Mexico after many were found to contain methanol, a form of alcohol that is poisonous to humans. Most of the products that Valisure found to contain high levels of benzene were made in China or the US.
The analysis also found high levels of methanol in hand sanitizers. A Scentsational product that tested high levels of benzene maintained 14 times the limit for methanol, which is 630 parts per million. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should normally not contain methanol; they are generally made with ethanol or grain alcohol, which is also used in some beverages.
Valisure’s Light said it originally scoffed at the idea that a dangerous carcinogen like benzene would be in hand cleaners, but is now glad that chief scientist Kaury Kucera pushed to test it. The sanitizers could have been contaminated with benzene because it is sometimes used in alcohol purification, Valisure said.
While the benzene must be removed in the final manufacturing steps after the alcohol is purified, this may not have been the case, Valisure said. Gel hand sanitizer is also made by adding a powder called carbomer, often made with benzene, to create viscosity, the pharmacy said.
Read more: Carcinogen in Zantac and Generic Triggers FDA, EU Probes
Medications have also been found to contain carcinogens that were not removed properly during the manufacturing process or formed later when the medications were placed on the shelves. Contaminants include NDMA, or N-nitrosodimethylamine, a probable carcinogen that was found in blood pressure pills in 2018, leading to recalls.
Later, Valisure detected NDMA in the heartburn drug Zantac and its generic forms, as well as in metformin, a diabetes treatment, prompting further actions. The FDA eventually required Zantac and its generic form, ranitidine, to be off the market in the US About two dozen companies sold FDA-approved products generic versions of the drug at that time.
In 2019, Valisure also identified elevated levels of a probable carcinogen called DMF, or dimethylformamide, in blood pressure medications. DMF is a solvent used during the early stages of drug manufacturing that is supposed to be washed out of the final product. The FDA is taking a closer look at ingredient manufacturers that might use DMF.
Benzene is the third most dangerous carcinogenic chemical that the pharmacy has helped to uncover in product testing.
(Updates to the list of Valisure brands found with the highest levels of benzene)