Benzene in Hand Sanitizers
- Hand sanitizers have become part of daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In a study from Valisure, benzene, a harmful cancer-causing agent on par with asbestos, was found in a variety of hand sanitizers.
- For people fighting cancer during the pandemic, it’s important to continue screenings, scans, and appointments, and to practice COVID-19 safety measures like social distancing.
Seventeen percent of brands tested contained benzene, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), according to Valisure, which tests products for quality. The World Health Organization’s cancer research team lists benzene in one of the highest cancer risk categories along with asbestos.Read More
COVID-19 Safety for Cancer Patients
Light says that people who want to practice COVID-19-era safety can be discriminating about their sanitizer in several ways.
“It definitely won’t be on the label [of a hand sanitizer bottle if there’s benzene in it],” he says. “It’s certainly banned by the FDA as well. By the way, the FDA specifically says that benzene should not be used in the manufacture of drug products, drug excipients, which are the inactive ingredients to go into a pharmaceutical product because of its unacceptable toxicity.”
People receiving treatment for cancer need to be especially cautious during the pandemic to protect themselves from COVID-19. Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy can blunt the immune system, so practicing safety precautions like hand-washing and maintaining social distance, can go a long way when it comes to protecting yourself from the coronavirus.
Additionally, cancer patients should consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine when they’re able to. Dr. Vincent Rajkumar of the Mayo Clinic says in an earlier interview, "[The vaccine] is very safe and there is no increased risk to you just because you have cancer," he says. “People getting treatment for cancer can speak to their physician for personalized guidance on getting the vaccine.”
"As long as you are feeling well, just go ahead with the vaccine whenever it's offered to you. Sometimes even on the same day if you are going to the clinic to get a small dose of chemotherapy and they're giving the vaccine, just get it, there's really no major problem," Dr. Rajkumar says. "The only people for whom we are saying to delay by a month or two are patients who have had a stem cell transplant because we have wiped out everything. And so you want to wait until some of the recovery happens so when you give the vaccine, they have an immune response."
Cancer Screenings Through COVID
While the pandemic marches on, it’s important to continue cancer screenings during this time. Dr. Elizabeth Comen of Memorial Sloan Kettering agrees. In an earlier interview, she says, “So we know that cancer has not gone away just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We also know that some elective procedures and potentially preventative care things like colonoscopies, and mammograms, and pap smears may have been put off a couple months because we wanted to limit the number of people that were coming into the hospital and also keep patients at home unless they really needed to leave.”
Dr. Comen says there’s now a greater understanding of how to protect cancer patients. “But fortunately, now that we have a little bit of a better hold on how to protect patients, how to disinfect, how to clean in between patients and scatter so that we’re not crowding our waiting rooms, it’s really, really important to remember to talk to your doctor about your screening mammogram or any other preventative tests that you may need.”
“We know that cancer prevention works, and what we don’t want is a huge fallout because of COVID that patients are so afraid to leave their home that they’re missing their most important tests, like their screening mammogram,” she says.