Carcinogen benzene reportedly in hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer has become a staple in the battle to contain COVID-19, but not all brands are made to the same standards. Some can contain products like methanol, which can be toxic when used on the skin. Consumers took note when an online pharmacy Valisure sounded the alarm over concern that batches of hand sanitizer were contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

Mary Beth Genter, PhD, a professor in the UC College of Medicine, provided her expertise for a story with Healthline on this subject. She advised against using brands of hand sanitizer that contain denatured alcohol.

“Denatured, in this context, means that the alcohol, generally ethanol, is modified to make it taste bad, smell bad, or be toxic if ingested,” Genter told Healthline, adding that benzene has been used in the past to do this.

“There’s no way to tell by looking at a label if benzene was the additive used to denature the ethanol, so just avoiding denatured ethanol might be the soundest advice,” she added.

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