Lab testing has detected benzene, a known human carcinogen, in 78 sunscreen products. Check out if you are using the wrong brand, too, like most of us!
- Independent lab Valisure tested nearly 300 sunscreen products and found 27 percent of them contained benzene.
- Exposure to higher levels of benzene is known to cause cancer in humans, especially blood cancer, including leukemia.
- Fourteen out of the tested 300 products, accounting for 5 percent, contain benzene at levels higher than two parts per million (ppm).
- In lieu of its findings, Valisure has submitted a petition to the U.S. FDA asking the authority to call back all the 78 products with higher levels of benzene for further investigation.
After finding benzene in hand sanitizers just two months ago, the pharmaceutical lab Valisure has now found carcinogens in multiple sun care products. The lab has appealed to the FDA to intervene for public safety and health and recall 78 products from the market to ensure public health.
This New Haven, Connecticut-based laboratory declared in a press release that the company had detected benzene in 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products. This includes 14 products offered by popular brands – Neutrogena, CVS Health, Banana Boat, Sun Bum, EltaMD, Raw Elements, Fruit of the Earth, and Top Care EveryDay containing benzene at 2.78-6.26 ppm. This alone accounts for five percent of the examined products, and contained benzene at levels higher than two parts per million (ppm), the FDA’s recommended limit for benzene in medically valuable drugs that can’t be made without it.
Stepping out on a sunny day? You might want to do some research on your sunscreen brand before you rub that soft, fragrant cream marked SPF 50 on your skin so generously.
Take a look at the 14 product lots with the highest levels of benzene:
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70 — UPC 086800100409, Lot 07020E01
- Sun Bum Cool Down Gel — UPC 871760002005, Lot S0082C
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+ — UPC 086800100416, Lot 04820E04
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70 — UPC 086800100409, Lot 06920E01
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Sunscreen Spray – SPF 100 — UPC 086800101444, Lot 04721E02
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70 — UPC 086800100409, Lot 02320E01
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+ — UPC 086800100416, Lot 03120E02
- CVS Health After-sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray — UPC 050428390832, Lot 4111849A
- Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel — UPC 071661001200, Lot 6612940A
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Spray Body Sunscreen SPF 50 — UPC 086800112549, Lot 25520E01
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Sunscreen Spray – SPF 100 — UPC 086800101444, Lot 4 28020E01
- CVS Health After-sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray — UPC 050428390832, Lot 8140449A
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Sunscreen Spray – SPF 100 — UPC 086800101444, Lot 31420E04
- Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Body Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60+ — UPC 086800111542, Lot 04921E01
Valisure’s findings need to be taken seriously
Valisure is known for its safety test standards that include products sold at its pharmacy. It had intimated the FDA in 2018 about the detection of a plausible cancer-causing chemical known as NDMA in drugs with an active element – Ranitidine. This resulted in the FDA and other regulatory authorities in different countries recalling ranitidine drugs that were made compulsory, and yet the fate of these products remains unknown.
This time the company tested 294 unique batches of sun care products from 69 different brands.
Valisure detected benzene and other contaminants that pose potential health threats from multiple brands of hand sanitizers in late March and asked the FDA to push the bringing back of the affected lots. It urged the body to include a benzene exposure limit in its guidance. Soon, a month later, Scentsational Soaps & Candles issued a voluntary national recall of the scented hand sanitizers stating that higher levels of benzene, acetaldehyde, and methanol were present in the products.
For Public Sun Care
The company wrote in its citizen petition to the FDA (dated May 24), “The presence of this known human carcinogen in sunscreen products widely recommended for the prevention of skin cancer and regularly used by adults and children in bigger volumes make this finding especially troubling.” Also, the petition contains a list of potentially contaminated products.
Benzene is a slightly yellowish or colorless flammable liquid (at room temperature) that is already known to be the leading cause of many types of blood cancer detected in the gels, lotions, and sprays with mineral-based and mineral-based chemical formulations. This chemical is naturally found in the environment and used as a solvent in making plastics and other products. But as soon it reaches a high dose, it becomes acutely poisonous. It’s a well-known fact that long-term exposure can increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. It is also present frequently in cigarette smoke.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in its guidance, does not allow the intentional addition of benzene to drugs or any consumer products that fall under its regulation. But, it has set a safety limit for its presence if it’s necessary at two parts per million.
New Regulations on the way for Sunshine?
Presently, though, the FDA does not recognize sunscreens as a potential source for benzene. But even if it begins to, the claims made by Valisure have recognized products that use benzene at a much higher approved level. Further, the company argues that since most of these products did not test for the cancer-causing chemical, the regulatory agency should not tolerate any amount of benzene in such products.
The recent discovery does sound alarming due to the latest evidence collected by the FDA that the chemicals present in the sun care products are readily absorbed through the skin with a possibility of absorption at levels higher than expected. According to Valisure though, scientists are yet to confirm whether it puts anyone at risk or not. But it looks like another reason why the health agency needs to take immediate action.
The lab urged the authority to call in these products and conduct a thorough investigation of its own to reevaluate them. Valisure wants this to be treated as a timely priority since the FDA is also chalking out the latest version of their guidelines for regulating sunscreen lotions.
Environment, Sun Care and Health
Meanwhile, it may be worth remembering that sunscreens have even shown proof of killing coral reefs in the ocean. In 2021, Hawaii banned the sale of sunscreens that contained octinoxate and oxybenzone. Reports suggested that six active elements from the sunscreens can remain absorbed in the body that may continue to linger on for days or even weeks.
In 2020, the FDA said that while the UV filters in the chemical sun care products are not considered safe, they did not even say that they are unsafe. The health authority said that scientists don’t know yet. So, now as we wait for the scientists to find out and looking for a safer sunscreen without high benzene levels, take a look at the name of products without benzene shared by Valisure.