Hand disinfectants have become reliable tools to keep people safe and healthy in the fight against– but now an independent study suggests that some products may have the opposite effect.
Valisure, an independent pharmacy and laboratory that tests drug products for quality, says it tested 260 products and found elevated levels of benzene in more than 20 of them.
Benzene is a known carcinogen, and exposure to it is known to cause blood problems, including leukemia.
The leading brand for, Purell and many others had no detectable levels of benzene. But Valisure has asked the Food and Drug Administration to launch an investigation and recall the products they found contain gasoline.
Valuation chief David Light told CBS News chief correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook that he was “shocked”
“I was shocked that we found benzene at all,” said Light. “It may very well be the most famous … compound that is dangerous to humans.”
Valisure Chief Scientific Officer Kaury Kucera went through the testing process at LaPook.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration relaxed the standards for benzene levels in liquid hand sanitizers, allowing benzene at a concentration of up to two parts per million, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande, professor of environmental science at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
“It was an attempt to really increase hand cleaners and availability, because many people bought them and the supply was low,” Trasande explained.
Valisure tested hundreds of products for the chemical.
Valisure says about 260 products, 21 products from 15 brands tested across the FDA’s temporary limit. The top three tested between six and eight times higher than allowed.
Valisure found batches of a Star Wars Mandalorian hand sanitizer with a Baby Yoda rating on the label produced by Best Brands Consumer Products contained almost twice as much as allowed. Attempts to obtain a response from the manufacturer were unsuccessful.
In a statement, the Walt Disney Company said that it launched independent testing on “Baby Yoda” disinfectant and has asked Best Brands to withdraw the products until more is learned.
CBS News found the product available on Amazon, which told CBS News that they are investigating the products in question.
Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum, of the Colorado School of Public Health, warns benzene exposure can be increased in workers who use hand sanitizer contaminated with it, and put on gloves that prevent evaporation.
“If you do not wear gloves over them, the risk is quite low because your skin is hot. You use it, benzene will evaporate quite quickly,” he said, adding that the threat is mainly to people at “special risk.”
Teitelbaum continued: “There are a lot of health professionals. There are a lot of cleaning and sanitation people.… The longer you use it, the greater the risk.”
For a list of products tested by Valisure, visit this link.
The FDA said they are reviewing Valisy’s request and continue to test disinfectant products and monitor the market.
The company also invites people to send samples of hand cleaners for analysis.