Physician Outlook

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Warning to Parents: Lax Regulations of Hand Sanitizers Could Put Your Kids at Risk


Parents beware! Not every hand sanitizer is created equally, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. The lack of FDA oversight and the dangers of unregulated products--especially to children--cannot be understated.

Some hand sanitizers are DANGEROUS especially for children

 

Once relegated to the dark recesses of every mom’s diaper bag, hand sanitizer has gone mainstream.

When demand for hand sanitizer surged in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were all left scrambling to find any way to refill that parental essential.  The Food and Drug Administration responded by relaxing regulations to allow unconventional manufacturers to enter the market. Businesses ranging from craft breweries to gin distillers changed their factories and production lines to fill the hand sanitizer void. 

Post-pandemic more than 250 hand sanitizers found unsafe by FDA

 

Now that hygiene production lines have caught up with demand, parents should think twice before relying on untested manufacturers with their kid’s hand hygiene. Nearly 250 hand sanitizer products have been added to the FDA’s list of unsafe products just since the start of the pandemic. Health regulators are warning parents and health care professionals against using Durisan Antimicrobial Solutions Hand Sanitizer, which has been voluntarily recalled by the company. 

“Durisan tested its hand sanitizer and found microbial contamination including high levels of Burkholderia cepacia complex and Ralstonia pickettii,” the FDA warns consumers on their website, “which can lead to serious infections, including infection of the skin, soft tissues, lungs or bloodstream.”

Risky hand sanitizer products aren’t limited to a few bad actors seeking to make a quick profit. A recent study that analyzed 260 bottles from 168 brands found that roughly one in five contained benzene. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that benzene causes cancer. The World Health Organization puts the chemical “on par with asbestos” for the highest risk category for cancer. 

“I was shocked that we were finding benzene at all," said David Light, CEO of Valisure, an independent pharmacy and lab that conducted the hand sanitizer safety study. “It might very well be the most well known … compound that is dangerous to humans."

Mandalorian-themed hand sanitizer contains benzene

 

Most disturbingly, unsafe hand sanitizer products are being marketed to kids. Included in the list of benzene-linked hand sanitizer was a product marketed under the “Star Wars Mandalorian” branding. As a pediatrician, I am deeply concerned that poorly manufactured and dangerous hand sanitizer products pose a public health risk to our children. 

Many parents and caregivers don’t have the time or energy to rigorously examine the FDA’s unsafe hand sanitizer database for the latest product recall. That’s the job of health regulators. The FDA must tighten regulations of all hand sanitizer products. More importantly, it should increase enforcement actions against bad actors that use unsafe manufacturing practices.

We all want to stop germs and minimize the risk of exposure to viruses. The best action that parents and caregivers can take is to routinely and thoroughly scrub our kids’ hands. An 8-month long study on the impact of infections on school absentees, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology found that the best combination is hand-washing and safe hand sanitizer, which significantly lowered rates of absenteeism. 

If soap and water aren’t readily available, turn to a high-quality hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content from an established and reputable manufacturer. 

Parents, caregivers, and pediatricians all want to keep our kids safe from germs and dangerous pathogens. That includes keeping our kids safe from the long-term risks and dangerous side effects from unsafe and unregulated hand sanitizer products.

 

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