It’s reported that out of 300 brands sold by 69 companies, 78 of those contain the cancer-causing benzene
Benzene is a known human carcinogen. There is no safe level of benzene that can exist in sunscreen
products. The sheer amount of body surface that needs to be covered by SPF makes this dangerous.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies benzene as “carcinogenic to humans,” based on sufficient evidence that benzene causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML). IARC also notes that benzene exposure has been linked with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow chemical mostly used as a solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The FDA recognizes the danger of this compound and lists it as a “Class 1 solvent” that “should not be employed in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, and drug products because of their unacceptable toxicity.” Currently, FDA does not recognize sunscreen as a source of benzene.
The FDA temporarily established a 2 ppm limit (ppm=parts per million) on benzene in alcohol-based hand sanitizers during the COVD-19 pandemic, but Valisure found that even some of those exceeded that limit.
Big animal testing brands lead the way in highest toxin levels.
Valisure analyzed 294 unique batches from 69 brands of sunscreen and after-sun care products with the results detailed here. It’s notable that Neutrogena seems to be the worst offender in this group. Banana Boat comes in at a close second. CVS health brand was third in the highest ranking.
The highest level of benzene (6.26 ppm) was detected in Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100. Two different batches of the same sunscreen, each with an SPF of 70, contained 5.96 and 5.76 ppm of the benzene. Next was Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen
Spray, SPF 70 with 5.96 ppm. Sun Bum‘s Cool Down Gel contained the third highest amount, at 5.33 ppm.
Even in this limited sample of certain sunscreen and after-sun care products within the United States, multiple samples contained significantly detectable benzene and some batches contained up to 3.1 times the conditionally restricted limit.
Valisure has asked the FDA to investigate the sunscreen and after-sun products in question as well as manufacturing processes to the FDA.
How the carcinogen made its way into these sunscreen and after-sun product batches, it’s believed it was an error in how the product was made—not what it was made from.
“It’s very likely a contaminant from the manufacturing process,” David Light, founder and CEO of New Haven, Connecticut-bases Valisure.
Valisure made a good faith effort to obtain samples representative of the general supply, but many brands and formulations are not included in Valisure’s analysis.
Its important to know Valisure also found multiple after-sun care products that contain benzene and some products with benzene contamination above 2 ppm. After-sun care products may also be
labeled as “after-burn care” or other “after sun care”.
Valisure is calling for the FDA to recall these products and investigate the possible contamination.
Does this mean we should abandon Sunscreen altogether?
No. For now it looks like we can be safer by avoiding certain brands.
It’s important to note that this contamination has not been detected in all sunscreen products and that uncontaminated sunscreen products are available and should continue to be utilized.
Cruelty-free Sunscreens listed as safe by Valisure.
Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen With Instant Bronzer – SPF 30
Australian Gold Lotion Sunscreen With Instant Bronzer SPF 30
Alba Botanica Baby Clear Mineral Sunscreen Hypoallergenic SPF 50+
Alba Botanica Tropical Fruit Kids Sunscreen SPF 45
Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen Tinted Daily Face Moisturizier SPF 30
Besides the concern for public health, there is also evidence that sunscreen products in general, and benzene itself, pose a serious risk to the environment, marine ecosystems, and United States waterways.
Valisure operates an analytical laboratory that is accredited to International Organization for
Standardization standards for chemical testing. Valisure is registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration and FDA Valisure’s mission is to help ensure the safety, quality and consistency of medications and supplements in the market. In response to rising concerns about counterfeit medications, generics, and overseas manufacturing, Valisure developed proprietary analytical technologies that it uses in addition to FDA standard methods to test medications and consumer products distributed in the United States.
Sources: Valisure, International Agency for Research on Cancer, National Cancer Institute