Hand sanitizers are necessary in the COVID period, but some of them pose a danger, according to a new report. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for preventing the transmission of COVID-19, demand for hand sanitizer hit an all-time high in 2020. According to the CDC, some hand sanitizer brands contain high levels of "contaminants," including benzene, which is believed to cause cancer in humans. So can sanitizer cause cancer for real?

Sanitizer Cause Cancer

Hand sanitizer, which has long been used to help combat infection, has been even more crucial amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all brands adhere to the same set of guidelines. Some may contain potentially dangerous additives, such as methanol, which is poisonous when applied to the skin.

In Western countries, the estimated cost of skin cancer treatment is very high. India is renowned for its modern care services and promising skin cancer treatment technologies. The cost of cancer treatment in India is much lower than in other developed countries.

Let us move further to the core question and discuss if one should really consider this as a serious question or not.

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Can Sanitizer Cause Cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some hand sanitizer brands contain high levels of "contaminants," including benzene, which is believed to cause cancer in humans. Valisure, a Connecticut-based online pharmacy and product review firm, conducted the research. Valisure's founder and CEO, David Light, informs that the firm routinely analyses thousands of prescription and consumer goods distributed by their internet pharmacy, which only dispenses products that have been batch-certified by their in-house facility.

"High levels of benzene and other toxins were screened and found in separate batches of hand sanitizer products that contain active pharmaceutical ingredients of ethanol and isopropanol," according to Valisure's petition.

Valisure tested 260 bottles from 168 brands and discovered that 17% of them had measurable amounts of benzene. The FDA set a temporary limit of two parts per million (ppm) for liquid hand sanitizers to ease the supply crisis during the pandemic, and 21 bottles (8 percent of the samples) contained benzene above that level.

Benzene levels of approximately 0.1 parts per million (ppm) were present in 44 batches, according to the investigation. Twenty-one batches, for both liquid and gel hand sanitizers, exceeded the FDA's provisional cap of 2 ppm. The highest observed amount was 16.1 ppm, which is more than eight times the FDA cap.

According to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician on staff at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, "Benzene is a confirmed human carcinogen that is known to cause cancer (leukaemia)."

Which Sanitizers To Avoid?

“Denatured alcohol-containing brands should be avoided”, said Mary Beth Genter, PhD, professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

In this case, denatured means that the alcohol, usual ethanol, has been altered to make it taste worse, smell bad or be harmful if consumed. Since there's no way to know whether benzene was used to denature the ethanol from looking at the label, avoiding denatured ethanol might be the best option.

It's important to know what's in the hand sanitizers we use on a daily basis. Therefore, when shopping for sanitizer, we should keep these four "S" terms in mind, according to Greg Altman, PhD, co-founder of Evolved By Nature, a green chemistry business that also makes eco-friendly hand sanitizer:

  • Smell: Be cautious whether it smells different or lacks a pure, alcohol fragrance. The odour may be caused by toxins such as methanol, acetone, or other toxic chemicals.
  • Substitutions: Any alcohol concentration less than 70%, or statements such as "alcohol-free," indicate that it may not be sufficient to destroy germs.
  • Sink and Sewers: Carbomers and other thickening agents, as well as any ingredient containing the term "acrylate," are poisonous to the environment. It's basically liquid plastic on your hands that gets flushed down the drain and into the atmosphere.
  • Sticky: If it is sticky on the skin, it probably contains glycerin. This is a popular thickening agent used by many manufacturers. It is understood, however, that it reduces ethanol's successful destruction potential.
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What Brands Of Hand Sanitizer Should You Avoid?

In Valisure's study, high levels of benzene were found in bottles of hand sanitizer from these 15 brands:
  • Artnaturals
  • Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.
  • Huangjisoo
  • TrueWash
  • The Crème Shop
  • Star Wars Mandalorian
  • Body Prescriptions
  • Born Basic
  • Beauty Concepts
  • PureLogic
  • Miami CarryOn
  • Natural Wunder
  • clean-protect-sanitize
  • Puretize
  • Hand Clean 100

These findings are worrisome and point to a serious public health threat.

It's unclear how benzene ended up in the drugs. It may have been added during the purification phase of germ-killing alcohol, according to Valisure.

Artnaturals, Scentsational Soaps and Candles Inc., The Creme Shop, and a Baby Yoda-themed bottle from Best Brands Consumer Goods Inc. were among the most polluted hand cleaners. According to FDA documents, each company began selling the cleaners checked by Valisure in April or May 2020. At 16ppm, an artnaturals sanitizer contained the most benzene of those tested.

What Substances Should Be There In Your Hand Sanitizer?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a prescribed hand sanitizer formula that is very basic. Just three ingredients are required for an effective hand sanitizer: isopropyl alcohol (also known as 2-propanol), hydrogen peroxide, and glycerol. While ethyl alcohol may be substituted for isopropyl alcohol, other forms of alcohol, such as methanol and 1-propanol, are poisonous to humans and should not be used in hand sanitizer.

Since hand sanitizers are known as over-the-counter products licenced by the FDA, those that pass the FDA's drug review requirements will have a "drug data" mark that describes the product's ingredients. You should also use the FDA's list of things you shouldn't use to see if your hand sanitizer brand is clean.


An online pharmacy examined hundreds of hand sanitizer products and discovered that some of them had elevated amounts of the carcinogen benzene. According to experts, this isn't the only potentially hazardous chemical used in sanitizer that can cause skin cancer. Methanol and microbial degradation should also be avoided.

To ensure effectiveness and reduce the risk of benzene contamination, experts advocate using goods that contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol and have not been "denatured."