Hand gel safety alerts only apply to certain brands

24 November 2021
What was claimed

The FDA says that hand gel causes cancer.

Our verdict

The FDA has said that some particular types or brands of hand gel contain harmful ingredients, some of which are linked to cancers. However, this does not mean that all hand gels are harmful. The FDA and NHS advise that if soap and water aren’t available, hand gel should be used.

A Facebook post claims that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says that hand gel “causes cancer”. The post uses what appears to be a code for the FDA, by writing F/D/apple symbol. The post also says that this has followed “daily obsessive use for nearly two years by the masses”.   

Although it is true that the FDA has discovered safety concerns with some hand sanitisers, it does not mean that all hand gels are unsafe.

The FDA website advises that washing hands regularly with soap and water can help to stop the spread of Covid-19. It also says that where soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using “alcohol-based hand sanitisers containing at least 60% alcohol to help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others”. This is similar to the advice from the NHS

The FDA has, however, warned that it has discovered “serious safety concerns” with some hand sanitisers during testing.

It describes identifying some hand sanitisers that were contaminated with potentially toxic types of alcohol or other contaminants, that do not contain enough active ingredient, that have false or misleading labels, unsafe packaging, or were manufactured in certain facilities. 

An FDA alert from 4 October, for example, says that a particular brand of hand gel contains  “unacceptable levels of benzene, acetaldehyde, and acetal contaminants”. It warns that benzene may cause “certain types of cancer in humans” and that animal studies show acetaldehyde “may cause cancer and may cause serious illness or death”. It says that while the exact risk of using hand gel containing these products is unknown, the FDA advises consumers to avoid them. An update also notes that the brand of hand sanitiser has now been recalled.

The FDA has compiled a list of hand sanitisers that should no longer be used, and has a tool to help consumers check for dangerous types of hand sanitisers.  

We have previously written about the importance of using hand gel according to the instructions. 


Update 24 November 2021

The article headline was altered to be more clear.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false Because the FDA has raised concerns with some particular types of hand gels. This does not mean that all hand gels are considered to be harmful.

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