According to tests conducted by online pharmacy and lab Valisure, traces of a chemical linked to blood cancers such as leukemia have been detected in dozens of popular sunscreens and after-sun products.
According to Valisure, benzene, a known carcinogen, was found in 78 of nearly 300 sprays and lotions tested (about 27 percent), including products sold by Banana Boat and CVS.
The company has petitioned the FDA to recall these contaminated batches. The claim is being reviewed by the regulatory body.
Sunscreens and after-sun products, which are classified as cosmetics, are generally regulated by the FDA. At room temperature, the chemical is described as “a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical.” According to Valisure, it has been used “primarily as a solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.”
Cigarette smoke, gasoline, glues, adhesives, cleaning products, and paint strippers all contain trace amounts of benzene.
According to Valisure, 14 sun care product lots with some of the highest contaminations are sold under four different popular brands: Neutrogena, Sun Bum, CVS Health, and Fruit of the Earth. Not all of the products from the aforementioned brands were found to contain benzene, and a list of products found to contain and not contain benzene is included further down the page in Valisure’s petition form.
Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+ and Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70, for example, were among 14 products Valisure claims have the highest levels of benzene tested. However, the carcinogen was not found in products such as Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 and Oil-free Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 15. According to Valisure’s website, all of the samples tested contained “up to three times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million” of benzene.
Valisure’s founder and CEO, David Light, believes the problem is manufacturing contamination affecting specific batches. Despite the fact that the source of the contaminant is unknown and that more products tested passed than failed, Light urged manufacturers and consumers to take the matter seriously. “Benzene is one of the most extensively researched and dangerous human carcinogens known to science. Its link to the development of blood cancers in humans has been demonstrated in numerous studies at trace levels of parts per million and lower. The presence of this known human carcinogen in products widely recommended for skin cancer prevention and regularly used by adults and children is extremely concerning “According to the company’s statement, Light
He also wants the FDA to clarify its contamination standards and “address current regulatory gaps regarding benzene in both drug and cosmetic products.” Valisure is encouraging people to send in their own sunscreen and sun care product samples for testing.
The company also made public their FDA petition, which includes a list of the batches that had benzene levels detected. Pages 12 to 15 contain the products.
Banana Boat’s manufacturer also defended its products, claiming that “our sun care products undergo rigorous testing to ensure safety and quality and meet all FDA regulations.”
CVS stated in a statement that their products are “safe” and that “we are in the process of reviewing and evaluating information in and related to Valisure’s petition and will respond accordingly.” “To further ensure the quality of our products, we will work with suppliers to understand how trace amounts may have been detected,” Sun Bum said in a statement.
Valisure, on the other hand, emphasized to customers that they should not avoid using sunscreen and should continue to do so.
“It is critical for people to understand, especially as we approach the summer months, that many sunscreen products tested by Valisure did not have benzene contamination, and those products are presumably safe and should continue to be used, along with appropriate hats and sun-protective clothing, to mitigate skin cancer risk.” Christopher Bunick, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Yale University was quoted as saying in the company’s press release.