Online pharmacy Valisure is in the news once again as its ongoing product testing has revealed high levels of benzene in a number of brands of hand sanitizer currently on the market and available for sale.
Valisure’s policy of independently testing the products it sells for purity and contamination initially came to light after it discovered elevated levels of NDMA in heartburn medication Zantac. News of the find came long before the issue had found its way onto the FDA’s radar and the only thing the agency had to say in response was that it was taking a “wait and see” approach to the findings before issuing its own guidance. It would eventually release a report weeks later acknowledging the presence of the compound in Zantac and issue guidance for a recall of the drug.
The pharmacy’s latest find revealed unacceptable levels of benzene in over 20 brands of hand sanitizer, including some that appear to be marketed toward children. Benzene is a known carcinogen and can cause a variety of blood disorders, including leukemia.
To further complicate matters, the standard that the research violates is actually an amount of benzene that is higher than what is normally allowed. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, government regulators relaxed their standards on how much benzene could be allowed in a sanitizer product and still be fit for use. That new standard was up to two parts per million in any particular sample. The Valisure results have shown levels six- to eight-times higher than the elevated amounts now allowed by the FDA.
At least one of the brands appears to be marketed toward children. Branded as Star Wars Madalorian hand sanitizer and featuring an image of the character commonly known as “Baby Yoda” on the label, the sample tested by Valisure showed the sanitizer to contain nearly double the amount of benzene allowed.
Valisure has petitioned the FDA to issue recalls based on its findings but, to perhaps no one’s surprise, the agency has yet to take action.