Nearly two dozen hand sanitizers have been recalled or banned in the United States after they were found to contain a cancer-causing chemical.
Thousands of bottles made in China, South Korea and America were pulled from the shelves between April 2021 and September this year.
The gels and sprays – which became a mainstay during the Covid outbreak – were found to contain dangerous levels of benzene, a cancer-causing substance at the top of the government’s list of most dangerous solvents.
It comes after more than a million bottles of dry shampoo were recalled last month over fears of benzene contamination.
In total, 21 brands of hand sanitizer have been recalled, including products made by The Creme Shop and Ulta Beauty, plus lesser-known sanitizers sold in TJ Maxx, Marshalls and online.
Some of the products appear to have been aimed at children with packaging including Star Wars character Yoda, Disney characters and Spiderman.
When rubbed on the hands, even in relatively small doses, benzene can seep through the skin and into the bloodstream where it can stop cells from working properly. It is known to cause leukemia and other blood disorders.
The recalls involved specific batches of products, with many ending up back on the shelves after the contamination issue was resolved.
However, some foreign-made products have been banned entirely, after they failed to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recall request.
Pictured above are the hand sanitizers that were either recalled or banned from entering the United States after benzene was discovered in the products. The recalls affected batches, with those currently on the shelves not believed to be contaminated
WHICH HAND SENSITIZERS HAVE BEEN RECALLED DUE TO BENZENE?
The hand sanitizers below have been recalled by the FDA or had an import ban imposed due to benzene contamination. The list is published on the authority’s website:
- Hand Sanitizer Isopropyl Alcohol Antiseptic 75% Topical Solution, manufactured by Bluebonnet Petrochemical Solutions;
- CALA advanced hand sanitizer with aloe vera extract, manufactured by David Cosmetic Co. Ltd.
- The Creme Shop’s Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer with Various Scents, Made by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- The Creme Shop’s Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer Scent Peppermint, Made by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- AOMI hand sanitizer gel and spray, manufactured by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- CoSo Health hand sanitizer, manufactured by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- TerraPure hand sanitizer, manufactured by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- The Australian Wellness Co. Instant hand sanitizer with natural extracts, manufactured by Mirfeel Korea Co.
- Best Brand Consumers Products Marvel Spiderman Hand Sanitizer, manufactured by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry & Trade;
- Best Brand Consumers Products Hand Sanitizer Kills Bacteria, Made by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry & Trade;
- Best Brand Consumers Products’ hand sanitizer, manufactured by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry & Trade;
- Best Brand Consumers Products Disney Princess Hand Sanitizer, manufactured by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry & Trade;
- Best Brand Consumers Products Disney Frozen II Hand Sanitizer, manufactured by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry & Trade;
- Best Brand Consumers Products Star Wars Mandalorian Hand Sanitizer, Made by Ningbo Haishu Huayu Ind.
- International Disinfectant Hand Spray 80%, manufactured by Salon Technologies International;
- Antica Ocean Lemon Hand Sanitizer Gel 65%, manufactured by Salon Technologies International;
- Scentsational Disinfectant Non-Sterile Solution Alcohol Antiseptic 70% Topical, Made by Scentsational Soaps and Candles
- Fresh Lemon Citron Frais Scented Hand Sanitizer, made by Scentsational Soaps and Candles;
- SS Black and White Collection, manufactured by Scentsational Soaps and Candles;
- Photo Real Collection hand sanitizer, made by Scentsational Soaps and Candles;
- Artnaturals unscented hand sanitizer natural elements, sold by Virgin Scents dba artnaturals.
Many of the hand sanitizers were found to contain more than the temporary legal limit of two parts per million (ppm) of benzene that was in place during the pandemic to help boost production in 2020.
Others were recalled after containing much lower levels when the limit was lowered back to zero in 2022.
Benzene can inadvertently end up in hand sanitizers during the manufacturing process when the gels are treated to remove impurities.
Cleaning is done with a chemical made with benzene, which can sometimes still contain trace amounts of carcinogens.
The extent of the health effects of benzene-contaminated hand sanitizers in the United States is not yet fully understood — but no injuries have been reported so far.
Benzene – the cancer-causing chemical found in hand sanitizers
Benzene is a carcinogenic chemical, also known as a carcinogen, that is widely used in manufacturing in the United States.
It is used to create plastic, nylon, rubber, paint and adhesive products.
It can also be found in tobacco smoke, motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions.
Long-term exposure to the chemical has been linked to serious damage to a person’s blood.
In has been linked to blood cancers such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The chemical has also been linked to anemia.
Hand sanitizer became a mainstay in homes, schools and offices during the pandemic, with sales increasing 600 percent in 2020 alone.
Among the recalled products are Scent Free hand sanitizer from Artnaturals, which sells in 8-oz bottles for $3.50 each, and three brands from Scentsational Soaps and Candles that sell for about $7 each.
Artnaturals faced its biggest recall to date last year when 34 different brands had to be sent back over fears of benzene contamination.
Ulta Beauty — which is powered by Scentsational Soaps and Candles — has seen three lots of its fresh lemon-scented spray hand sanitizer recalled.
When Covid first appeared, the FDA eased regulations on hand sanitizers, allowing unregulated manufacturers to make them provided they followed a certain method.
The agency also imposed a temporary legal limit of up to two ppm of benzene allowed in the products to speed up production – amid fears of a national shortage.
The loophole was scrapped earlier this year, but the FDA said there was now enough hand sanitizer available in the United States.
The most recent recall came in September and involved a product made in Florida – a sanitizing hand spray from Salon Technologies International.
The FDA asked the company to issue a voluntary recall after discovering that the product contained benzene.
Hand sanitizers from China-based Ningbo Haishu Huayu Industry and Trade and South Korean manufacturer Mirfeel Korea Co are no longer allowed to be imported into the United States, after the companies failed to issue a recall when benzene was found in their gels.
The FDA says benzene should not be used when making hand sanitizers, with those found to contain the chemical now being recalled, according to a list on the agency’s website.
The agency conducts tests to ensure products do not contain benzene, and also says manufacturers must verify that their products do not contain the chemical.
Benzene is normally detected in crude oil, as well as in plastics, resins and some dyes and pesticides.
Last year, an independent lab found that nearly one in five hand sanitizers may contain benzene. Valisure tested 260 bottles of hand sanitizer from 168 brands for carcinogens purchased at pharmacies across the United States.
A total of 21 were found to contain more than the previous limit of two parts per million. Benzene is at the top of the FDA’s list of hazardous solvents.
Inhaling or absorbing the chemical over a long period of time can have devastating health effects as it causes cells in the body to malfunction.
Overexposure to benzene can also cause the bone marrow to not produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia, as well as blood cancer.
It can also wreak havoc on the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and killing white blood cells.
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