Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Center and professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, is available to discuss the dangers of benzene in hand sanitizer products, following a study that found the known human carcinogen above the FDA limit in some hand sanitizers.
“Hand sanitizers are everywhere in this pandemic, and are often used many times a day. They should never contain harmful ingredients, such as the methanol reported earlier in the pandemic and, now, benzene,” Calello says. “Benzene is a toxic chemical which can cause short- and long-term illness, including cancer at high levels of exposure over a long time, such as in the workplace setting. Illness has not been reported with hand sanitizer use, which is unlikely to cause effects other than skin irritation. But if you suspect you have a benzene-contaminated hand sanitizer, do not use the product and prevent young children and pets from drinking it.
“If you or someone you know has ingested hand sanitizer of any kind, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately,” she continues. “Even alcohol-based hand sanitizers are unsafe to drink, but products contaminated with toxic chemicals like benzene or methanol can make you really sick.”