Does Your Sunscreen Contain a Carcinogen?

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Valisure LLC, an independent testing lab, has found high levels of a known human carcinogen in several sunscreen products.

Although the first sunscreen was invented in the early 1930s, the concept of sunscreen is nothing new. For thousands of years, people have used mixtures of plants and herbs to protect themselves from the harmful rays of the sun. For example, the ancient Egyptians would use extracts of rice, jasmine, and lupine. And the Greeks would use olive oil. Most of these chemicals are present in modern-day sunscreen products. However, it seems our sunscreen might also contain high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen. 

Benzene is a colorless liquid naturally found in crude oil and tar. It is also an industrial chemical and often used as a solvent for various products. However, due to safety concerns, authorities have limited its use in chemical products. Multiple studies have linked benzene to causing cancers in humans, particularly blood cancer. Furthermore, it is also easily absorbed through the skin.

Therefore, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend its use in the manufacture of drugs. But in the event that it is unavoidable, FDA recommends levels of 2 parts per million (ppm) or lower.

Benzene is one of the most studied and concerning human carcinogens known to science. Its association with forming blood cancers in humans has been shown in numerous studies at trace levels of parts per million and below. The presence of this known human carcinogen in products widely recommended for the prevention of skin cancer and that are regularly used by adults and children is very troubling

David Light, Founder and CEO of Valisure.

Benzene Found in 78 Products

Valisure LLC tests health care products for safety and quality. Recently, the lab analyzed almost 300 sunscreen and after-tanning products from 69 different companies. This included gels, lotions, and sprays.

According to the company’s statement, 27% of the products contained benzene. Moreover, some of the products had levels much higher than the FDA’s limit of 2ppm. They further revealed that a great majority of products did not contain benzene. Thus, proving it is not an unavoidable product.

As a result, Valisure has submitted a petition to the FDA asking for a recall of the sunscreen products containing the known carcinogen. The petition contains the full list of products that had benzene in them. Although the FDA does limit benzene levels to 2ppm in unavoidable circumstances, they have no specific criteria for sunscreen products. Therefore, the petition asks FDA to impose stricter rules for benzene levels in sunscreen products.

The FDA takes seriously any safety concerns raised about products we regulate, including sunscreen. While the agency evaluates the submitted citizen petition, we will continue to monitor the sunscreen marketplace and manufacturing efforts to help ensure the availability of safe sunscreens for U.S. consumers

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Despite the findings, it is important to note that majority of the products did not contain benzene. Hence, people should continue to use sunscreen products and protecting themselves from the sun and its rays.


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