MIAMI (CBSMiami) - During the pandemic, we've relied on hand sanitizers to help keep us safe.
But now, in an independent study, researchers from the company Valisure say they detected higher than allowed levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical compound in 21 products from 15 brands.
CBS News found some of these products containing benzene for sale on major retailers' websites. The leading brand, Purell, and many others had no detectable levels of benzene.
David Light runs Valisure, an independent lab and pharmacy that tests drug products for quality. Over the last several months, they started finding benzene, a known carcinogen, in some hand sanitizers.
"Honestly I was shocked. It might very well be the most well-known compound that is dangerous to humans," said Light.
In the early days of the pandemic, the FDA relaxed standards on benzene levels in liquid hand sanitizers, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande.
"There was an effort to really increase hand sanitizers and the availability," he said.
The FDA allowed liquid hand sanitizers to contain benzene in a concentration of up to 2 parts per million.
Valisure tested hundreds of products for benzene. They said of the 260 products test, 21 from 15 brands tested above the FDA interim limit. The top three tested between six to eight times higher than allowed.
Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum, an expert on benzene exposure, warned benzene absorption could be increased in workers who use a hand sanitizer contaminated with benzene then put on gloves that prevent evaporation.
"There are people who have special risks, it's a lot of health care personnel, it's a lot of cleaning and sanitation people," he said.
If you want to see which products were flagged by Valisure, CBS News has shared the research.
Valisure has petitioned the FDA to launch an investigation and recall for the ones on the list. The FDA said it is reviewing the petition and continues to test sanitizer products and monitor the market.
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