NEW YORK, NY (CBS Newspath) – During the pandemic, the public has relied on hand sanitizers in order to keep us safe, however, in an independent study researchers from the company Valisure say they detected higher than allowed levels of a potential cancer-causing chemical compound in 21 products from 15 brands. 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.
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.
“Honestly I was shocked. It might very well be the most well-known compound that is dangerous to humans,” said David Light, Valisure CEO. Valisure’s Chief Scientific Officer Kaury Kucera walked us through the testing process.
In the early days of the pandemic, the FDA relaxed standards on benzene levels in liquid hand sanitizers according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande. “There was an effort to really increase hand sanitizers and the availability,” said Trasande.
The FDA allowed liquid hand sanitizers to contain benzene in a concentration of up to two 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 sanitizer with Baby Yoda on the front contained nearly double the allowable limit. Attempts to get a response from manufactureer 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.
“There’s no reason for that kind of product to be on the market,” said Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum who is an expert on benezene exposure. He warns benzene absorption could be increased in workers who use a hand sanitizer contaminated with benzene the put on gloves that prevent evaporation.
“There are people who have special risks. It’s a lot of health care personnel. It’s a lot of cleaning and sanitation people,” said Dr. Teitelbaum.
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.
Valisure has petitioned the FDA to launch an investigation and recall for the products on the list. The FDA says it’s reviewing the petition and continues to test sanitizer products and monitor the market.
For a list of products tested by Valisure, visit Valisure.com.