After more than a year of battling this killer coronavirus, we talk a lot these days about things “going back to normal.”
And in many ways, we can see movement in that direction. Businesses are increasing capacity. Schools in many places are reopening. And some folks are even making tentative plans to do some traveling.
But the truth is it’s a NEW normal that we will be settling into. Some things will likely never be the same as they were before COVID-19.
Telemedicine will probably remain an option for a lot of routine doctors’ appointments. Many companies will likely still allow employees to work from home at least part of the time. Voting by mail will probably remain an option and maybe become the norm.
There’s one other subtler change that’s likely to hang around too. And that’s our focus on hand hygiene.
Focus on hand washing is the new normal
Before the coronavirus came crashing into our lives, we all thought we had a pretty good handle on keeping our mitts clean.
After all, we all learned the importance of washing up after visiting the restroom… and before every meal… in kindergarten. And when we have a cold or are under the weather, we sneeze into our elbows like pros.
But when COVID-19 became a household name, it was clear that we had to step up our hand hygiene game. We learned the PROPER way to wash our hands. And the run on hand sanitizer that left shelves empty for weeks on end proves we’ve been keeping our hands clean when we’re away from home too.
That’s likely not going to change as the world opens up and we head back out into our new normal. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you have several travel bottles of hand sanitizer on hand at all times now.
Back in the day, those bottles would have been a mainstream brand such as Purell. But these days, just as often, they’re a variety pack of brands I’d never heard of before the pandemic.
And it turns out that could be a problem.
Dozens of hand sanitizers contained benzene
Last year I warned you about some off brands of hand sanitizer being off in ANOTHER way. Several hand cleaners that were being made south of our border were contaminated with dangerous methanol or wood alcohol.
At that time, the FDA issued a recall of the products and banned imports of them from Mexico. To catch up on that issue, click here to read my earlier report.
Now NEW alarm bells are sounding. But it’s not methanol we need to worry about this time around. It’s benzene. High levels of this nasty cancer-causing chemical were found in some of those brands many of us stocked up on last year.
Valisure, an online pharmacy that tests products for quality and consistency, ran the tests. The pharmacy analyzed 260 bottles from 168 brands. And they found…
- 17 percent had detectable levels of benzene
- 8 percent (21 bottles) contained benzene ABOVE two parts per million
Both numbers are troubling, considering how toxic benzene is. But the second one is troubling for a second reason. The FDA has given that level its temporary blessing, electing to look away for the time being.
Yet the agency itself admits that people shouldn’t be exposed to benzene for long, saying those levels “can be tolerated for a relatively short period of time.”
In other words, we could have a real health disaster on our hands… literally.
Cancer-causing chemical found in hand sanitizers
We’re talking the worst of the worst here. The Environmental Protection Agency, The National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer ALL classify benzene as a “known human carcinogen.”
And the World Health Organization places the chemical in its HIGHEST risk category. To put that into perspective, it shares that distinction with asbestos.
Benzene is linked to certain blood cancers, including leukemia. Lab experiments show the chemical can cause different types of tumors in animals.
Researchers report it causes chromosomal changes in bone marrow cells in the lab. And studies have found cases of leukemia, and acute myeloid leukemia, in particular, is higher in folks exposed to benzene at work.
Now you’re not going to be drinking hand sanitizer, of course. So you may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” Well, the trouble is there’s evidence that benzene can be absorbed through the skin. And, of course, accidental ingestion is always a possibility.
According to Valisure, many of the products ALSO contain high methanol levels. That is the substance that caused the FDA to issue a recall last January of a number of hand sanitizers imported from Mexico. Most of the products Valisure tested this time around were from the USA and China.
Valisure has petitioned the FDA to act on the contaminated hand sanitizers, calling the findings “alarming” and pointed out that they “reveal a serious potential risk to public health.”
The following 15 products were the worst offenders with the highest benzene levels. If you have any of them, throw them out immediately (preferably at a hazardous waste drop-off-site).
- Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.
- The Creme Shop
- Star Wars Mandalorian
- Body Prescriptions
- Born Basic
- beauty concepts
- Miami Carry On
- Natural Wunderz
- Hand Clean 100
And don’t forget, basic old soap and water are better than any hand sanitizers out there. No fooling! Lather up well, scrub for at least 20 seconds and rinse with clean water. Just be sure to skip the hot air hand dryer and use a clean paper or cloth towel to dry off instead.