Here Are The Questionable Ingredients In Hand Sanitizer You Should Avoid

Hand sanitizer is used by many as an on-the-go alternative to keep hands clean and germ-free when soap and water are not readily available. Though a powerful means to kill potential disease-causing viruses and bacteria, not all hand sanitizers are made up of the same ingredients, and some can be more harmful than others. Valisure, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to the research and testing of various pharmaceutical drugs, recently found traces of benzene, a known cancer-causing carcinogen, across 44 different brands of hand sanitizer products. As a result, Valisure representatives have sought urgent action on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting a prompt recall of all known contaminated products (via Healthline). 

While health officials are making every effort to intervene in order to prevent consumer exposure to the chemical, it is important to take our own safety measures by being aware of what ingredients are in our hand sanitizers and the ones on the shelves at the store. 

Long-term exposure to benzene can pose various health risks

As defined by the American Cancer Society (ACS), "Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities." Often used as a chemical compound in various plastics, pesticides, dyes, and rubbers, benzene operates by interfering with the natural functioning of our cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By decreasing production of red and white blood cells, benzene can affect our immune system, antibody levels, and can lead to certain blood conditions such as anemia. Contact with the substance can take many forms including inhalation, eating, drinking, and direct contact with skin. Ongoing exposure to the chemical over time can have more severe outcomes such as compromised bone marrow, extreme bleeding, or increased risk of infections. Some research has also shown that benzene could interfere with a woman's menstrual cycle and can even lead to the shrinking of the ovaries. 

Experts urge only utilizing hand sanitizers containing ethanol or isopropanol

With FDA regulations only allowing two parts per million (2ppm) of benzene to be utilized in liquid hand sanitizers, tested batches were found to contain as much as 16.1 ppm of the chemical, putting it far over the allotted safety limit (via Valisure). Some of the particularly high risk sanitizers were found to also contain additives utilized to further draw consumers with appealing tastes or smells. Not only did these additives prove to go against FDA regulations, but experts warn this could increase the lure for children and result in possible accidental consumption. 

Benzene, however, is not the only harmful ingredient found in hand sanitizer. Over the years, other contaminants have been detected, such as infection-causing bacteria, reports the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the potentially life-threatening chemical methanol (via Healthline). Health officials advise the only hand sanitizers that should be used are those containing chemicals that experts have deemed safe such as ethanol or isopropanol. Should you come across labels that read "denatured alcohol" or "denatured ethanol," these are products you will want to avoid. For a comprehensive list of Valisure-verified hand sanitizers, be sure to visit their website for regular updates or visit the FDA's current listings of hand sanitizers to avoid to help keep yourself safe and informed.