Benzene in Sunscreen

High levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, have been detected in several brands and batches of sunscreens and after-sun care products.  

Online pharmacy Valisure LLC tested nearly 300 sprays and lotions and found that 78 (or approximately 27%) tested positive for benzene. Some batches contained levels up to three times the conditionally restricted Food and Drug Administration concentration limit 2 parts per million (ppm). 

A total of 14 sun care product lots with benzene concentrations of 2 ppm or more are sold across four different popular brands—Neutrogena, Sun Bum, CVS Health, and Fruit of the Earth. A full list of the sun care products that tested positive for benzene and their ppm levels can be found here. (Scroll to page 12 for chart.) 

The presence of a toxic, cancer-causing chemical, such as benzene, in sunscreens and after-sun care products is concerning. Several studies have shown that the chemicals in sunscreen can be found in high levels in the bloodstream after they are applied to the skin.

Valisure is the same pharmacy that detected the probable carcinogen NDMA in Zantac and other ranitidine products, which led to sweeping recalls of the heartburn medication and the April 2, 2020 market withdrawal of all ranitidine products.

What is Benzene?

Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical used in various industries including petrochemical production, oil and gas refining, coke and coal chemical manufacturing, and rubber tire manufacturing. It can also be found in some household products including paint, lacquer, and varnish removers and thinners, to name a few.  

Benzene exposure is known to cause cancer in humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, and other regulatory agencies. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists “inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact” as benzene exposure routes.  

Is Benzene Dangerous? 

The toxicity of benzene exposure has been known for more than 120 years. A 2010 review of benzene studies reported, “There is probably no safe level of exposure to benzene, and all exposures constitute some risk in a linear, if not supralunar, and additive fashion.”    

Benzene exposure, whether through inhalation or skin absorption, has been linked to life-threatening diseases including:  

  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) 
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) 
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) 
  • Multiple myeloma 
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 
  • Aplastic anemia 

Some of these diseases don’t present with symptoms until several years after exposure to benzene. And often, people who are diagnosed with AML, MDS, or some other form of benzene cancer don’t realize that there may be a connection to past benzene exposure. 

Is Benzene Exposure Dangerous to Children?

According to the American Cancer Society, benzene exposure has also been linked to childhood leukemia, particularly AML, ALL, CLL, and other blood-related cancers such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  

Is Benzene Exposure Dangerous to Pregnant Women?

Benzene exposure during pregnancy has been linked to the following conditions:  

  • Increased risk of childhood leukemia 
  • Low birthweight 
  • Greater incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida 

What are the Short-Term Effects of Benzene Exposure?

Inhaling high levels of benzene can cause symptoms such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Narcosis
  • At extremely high levels, benzene exposure may cause unconsciousness and death.

What is Being Done About Benzene in Sunscreen? 

On May 24, 2021, Valisure issued a petition to the FDA calling on the agency to recall batches of sunscreen and after-sun care products it identified as having levels of benzene that put human health at risk. The petition also calls on the FDA to take several steps to protect the public including: 

  • Conducting investigations into the manufacturing of sun care products 
  • Notifying the public about the presence of benzene in the products and recommending safer alternatives 
  • Developing guidance documents for the analysis of benzene in sunscreen products.  

“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 large volumes make this finding especially troubling,” Valisure said in the petition.  

Benzene in Sunscreen Lawyers

High levels of benzene—a known carcinogen—have been detected in several brands and batches of popular sunscreens and after-sun care products. Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical used in a variety of industrial and household products. But it is dangerous. Benzene exposure has been linked to cancer and other illnesses.

Our firm has the resources to represent clients throughout the country while never losing sight of the individual. If you or a loved one have regularly used sunscreen and been diagnosed with cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma, we can help.

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