Human carcinogen benzene detected in sunscreens

By Julia Wray | Published: 27-May-2021

Valisure testing detected high levels of the chemical in samples of 78 sun care products

The industrial chemical benzene has been detected in 78 sunscreen and aftersun products.

Valisure, a US-based testing company dedicated to avoiding adverse consumer effects from low quality medicines, claims to have detected high levels of the known human carcinogen in several brands and batches of sunscreen (considered drug products by the US Food and Drug Administration), as well as aftersun products, which the FDA classifies as cosmetics.

27% of the samples tested by Valisure contained detectable benzene, while some batches contained up to three times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit of 2 ppm.

Benzene is listed by the FDA as a Class 1 solvent “that should not be employed in the manufacture of drug substances… however, if their use is unavoidable in order to produce a drug product with a significant therapeutic advance, then their levels should be restricted” – hence the 2 ppm limit.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines benzene as a carcinogen and lists “inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact” as exposure routes.

Valisure is pushing for a recall of the contaminated batches and has requested the FDA better define its limits for benzene contamination in drugs and cosmetics.

The company noted that not all sunscreens contain benzene and that consumers should continue using sun care to protect against harmful solar radiation.

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