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Dozens of hand sanitizer sold in the United States have been found to contain significant levels of a human carcinogen, according to an online pharmacy that independently checks the chemical compositions of medications and drug products. 

Valisure analyzed 260 batches from 168 different brands of hand sanitizer and detected high levels of benzene in 44 of those tested, according to the company’s website. The issue is that significant exposure to benzene causes short-term and long-term health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), short-term exposure to high-levels of benzene through inhalation can cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches and other issues.

Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene is a greater issue. Benzene can negatively impact bone marrow and can reduce red blood cell count. 

“The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans," says the CDC on its website. "Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs. 

The FDA has stated that benzene should not be used in the making of any part of a drug product because of its level of toxicity. However, due to the high demand for hand hygiene products, the FDA has permitted up to two parts per million of benzene in liquid hand sanitizers made in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the hand sanitizers tested by Valisure contained more than eight times the interim limit of benzene permitted by the FDA.

"Valisure is asking FDA to request an immediate recall of the contaminated batches and to update its guidance to include an exposure limit for benzene in addition to a concentration," says Valisure on its website. Also, Valisure is requesting FDA further investigate batches of hand sanitizer that, in addition to being  contaminated, are inconsistent with FDA guidance to not add inactive ingredients, such as those that improve smell, taste or appearance, that could increase the risk of ingestion from children."

Some of the batches that Valisure found to be highly-contaminated with benzene appear to be specifically marked to children, according to the company.