Hand Sanitizer & Techincal-Grade Ethanol

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Hand sanitizer (Source: Kelly Sikkema)

Health Canada created a task force composed of a wide range of technical and scientific experts to assess the health risks posed by hand sanitizers containing technical-grade ethanol. Based on the results of the assessment, Health Canada determined that, when used as directed and for a limited period of time, the public health benefits of using hand sanitizer containing specific sources of technical-grade ethanol outweigh the risk. For more information, consult Health Canada’s risk assessment summary report.

To date, seven companies have been authorized to produce technical-grade ethanol for use in hand sanitizer following a case-by-case risk assessment. Health Canada has published a list of authorized suppliers.

As noted in the Summary Risk Assessment Report, risk is a function of hazard and exposure. The lower the exposure to acetaldehyde in the alcohol-based hand sanitizers, in terms of concentration, quantity of hand sanitizer used in each application, frequency of applications per day, and duration of use, the lower the risk.  While the task force considered acetaldehyde levels of 1,000 ppm in their analysis, authorized producers have been working to reduce impurity levels to the point where current levels of acetaldehyde are between 10-400 ppm.  Based on these lower levels, the task force is currently reviewing its risk assessment to determine if extensions are warranted for suppliers of technical grade ethanol and producers of hand sanitizers, and whether any of the conditions including additional labelling requirements need to be adjusted. The updated risk assessment report should be available in mid-June.

To help you identify hand sanitizers that may contain technical-grade ethanol, Health Canada published a list of manufacturers who received “No Objection Letters” to produce hand sanitizers using authorized technical-grade ethanol.


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