With recalls nationwide on hand sanitizers containing elevated amounts of carcinogens and toxins such as benzene, methanol and 1-propanol, it's imperative that we take a closer look at the products we're putting on our skin.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash.
As the demand for hand sanitizers increased tremendously due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA temporarily relaxed its safety and manufacturing guidelines in order to get these highly sought after products back on shelves. This allowed room for more companies to sell hand sanitizer as staple brands sold out rapidly. Seemingly almost overnight, new brands popped up online and in stores to try and accommodate for the deficit.
Sadly, not all hand sanitizers are created equal. With our skin being our largest organ that absorbs what you put on it, it's just as important to investigate skincare ingredients as the nutrition label when shopping for food. A product that's meant to protect your health certainly shouldn't be putting you at risk for potentially serious side effects and other problems. Let's take a look at what ingredients you should watch out for when shopping for hand sanitizer, and when you should use it.
Nationwide safety recalls on hand sanitizers.
Since hand sanitizer is considered to be an OTC (over-the-counter) drug, the FDA regulates it with testing. A closer look at newer brands offering hand sanitizer has put a spotlight on some pretty serious safety concerns, such as:
- High and unapproved levels of known human carcinogens and other toxins, such as methanol, 1-propanol and benzene
- Low alcohol or active content - not enough to effectively sanitize hands
- Brands making claims that are unproven or false
There are currently over 150 brands of hand sanitizers that the FDA has recalled, and recommends avoiding. To check and see if your hand sanitizer is safe, you can view the FDA's list here.
Carcinogens and harmful toxins found in hand sanitizer.
Benzene. A human carcinogen, exposure to Benzene is known to cause blood disorders such as leukemia. It's found in crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke, and is used to create chemicals for plastics, resins, rubbers, pesticides and more. While the leading brands should be safe and not contain any detectable amounts of Benzene, make sure to reference this list just in case.
"Benzene is known to cause cancer in humans according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)...The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines benzene as a carcinogen and lists 'inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact' as exposure routes. The FDA states that benzene should not be used in the manufacture of any component of a drug product because of its unacceptable toxicity" - Valisure.
Valisure, an independent lab that tests the quality of drugs recently tested 260 products and found benzene in more than 20 of those samples - an alarming amount considering how toxic benzene is. "I was shocked that we were finding benzene at all. It might very well be the most well known...compound that is dangerous to humans," Valisure CEO David Light told CBS News. Not only that, but the brands that did contain benzene had levels far more than the limit approved by the FDA, up to eight times higher than the allowed amount.
Doctors and healthcare professionals: This is particularly important for healthcare and sanitation workers to pay attention to, as wearing gloves after using a hand sanitizer containing benzene can trap the toxins in, as the gloves prevent it from evaporating quickly.
To view the brands specifically tested by Valisure, click here.
Methanol. Also known as methyl alcohol, methanol is very toxic and can cause serious health problems including blindness and death. It should never be absorbed through the skin or ingested. To really drive the point home here, methanol is used to create things like rocket fuel and antifreeze.
1-Propanol. Also toxic, 1-propanol (also known as 1-propyl alcohol) can result in several serious side effects if ingested. 1-Propanol is also a known irritant for skin and eyes.
Synthetic fragrances and dyes. This one might not sound terrible from the name alone, but synthetic fragrances can really do some damage to your immune system. It can also throw your hormones out of balance and cause other undesirable side effects. Synthetic dyes are potentially carcinogenic.
When Should You Use Hand Sanitizer?
The CDC recommends using hand sanitizer when soap and clean water are not available. Hand sanitizer is ideal to have on hand for on-the-go situations, or anywhere not at home where you can come into contact with germs from others. Examples include stores, offices, gas stations and ATMs - pretty much any errand outside your home.
How to Shop for Safe Hand Sanitizer.
We know it can be hard to trust products out there, and there are A LOT to choose from. That's why Lemyn Organics has every ounce independent lab tested for purity so that you know what you're getting every time you purchase a bottle of Lemyn.
Photo by Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan
Created by a caring mother in California, Lemyn Organics was born out of a passion for green science and accepting nothing but the best for her family. She didn't want to expose her loved ones to toxic chemicals, and now your family can experience the same level of care through her collection of USDA Certified Biobased hand sanitizers, Lemyn Organics.
"Third Party Testing of every batch ensures that our organic hand sanitizer is free from harmful levels of impurities e.g.: Methanol, Benzene, Actetaldehyde, 1, 1-diethoxyethane (Acetal), Acetone, 1-Propanol, Ethyl Acetate, 2-Butanol, Isobutanol, 1-Butanol, 3-Methyl-1-Butanol, Amyl Alcohol"
Lemyn focuses on what NOT to use, as much as what does belong in the bottle. Proudly made without silicones, parabens, triclosan, PET, mineral oil, fragrance, dyes, synthetic fragrances, and more than 1,500 other ingredients (including the toxins mentioned in the article). In addition to Lemyn's long list of ingredients to avoid, here's why we love Lemyn:
- Medical grade, kills 99.9999% of germs - more than the leading competitors at 99.99%
- No petroleum-derived ingredients, meaning that it's healthier for your skin and the environment.
- Free from over 1,500 harmful carcinogens and toxins commonly found in other hand sanitizers
- Exceeds CDC and FDA guidelines for safe and effective hand sanitizer: 70% alcohol derived from organic sugar cane
- USDA Certified Biobased
- Made with natural, plant-based skin repairing agents like aloe vera, avocado oil, jojoba oil and orange peel oil
- Dermatologist-tested and clinically proven to be safe for sensitive skin and children ages 3 and up
- Every batch is independent lab tested for purity
- Vegan and PETA-Approved Cruelty-Free
Safety is of paramount importance in a difficult time like this, and we hope that we can put you and your family at ease. Lemyn Organics commits to being a formula that you can trust, even after this pandemic subsides.
For more information on Lemyn Organics and the full list of ingredients, please reference our FAQ page or read our article: What's In Your Hand Sanitizer?
We care about our customers' safety. Don't see your hand sanitizer on any of the aforementioned lists? You can send samples of hand sanitizer for analysis using this link.
More references to check out:
Bloomberg: The Fallout from Hand Sanitizer Demand
CBS News: Study Finds Carcinogen Above FDA Limit in Several Hand Sanitizer Brands