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Carcinogen found in hand sanitizers sold during pandemic

A carcinogen has been found in hand sanitizer that entered the market during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an online pharmacy. 

The pharmacy, Valisure, tested numerous hand sanitizer products for chemicals including benzene, formaldehyde and others, finding higher levels of the cancer-causing benzene in nearly two dozen products sold in the U.S.

The products entered the market last year amid nationwide shortages of well-known brands. 

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Some of the brands included artnaturals, a beauty and skincare company. Artnaturals describes itself as born from "a desire to free beauty from high prices, toxic chemicals and all-around bad vibes."

Others included two products sold with colored sanitizer and cartoon imagery of the "Star Wars" character Baby Yoda from the TV show "The Mandalorian." 

Following the findings, Valisure submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging an investigation into the hand sanitizers. An FDA spokesperson told The Hill that it had received the petition and was reviewing it.

Valisure's petition requests the FDA "expeditiously request recalls on the affected batches of products," taking them off the market, adding that the agency should investigate how high levels of benzene were allowed to be included in numerous products.

The Hill has reached out to artnaturals and Lucasfilm for comment.

The analysis went on to suggest that while only a fraction of the market had been tested, few of the products containing high levels of benzene appeared to be manufactured in Mexico; most came from the U.S. or China.

"The FDA continues to test hand sanitizer products and proactively work with companies, when appropriate, to recall products and encourage retailers to remove products from store shelves and online marketplaces when quality issues arise. The agency reminds manufacturers, distributors, repackagers and importers they are responsible for the quality of their products and urges manufacturers to test their ingredients to ensure they meet specifications and are free from harmful contamination," an FDA spokesperson told The Hill.

-- Updated at 10:18 p.m.