WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to an article on claimsjournal.com, pharmaceutical researchers have asked U.S. regulators to remove specific sunscreens from the U.S. market, including popular brands such as Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Neutrogena, due to benzophenone contamination. Health scientists also asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to remove all sunscreens containing the active ingredient “octocrylene” from the market.
Benzophenone is an organic compound used in some personal care products, such as nail polish and lip balm. Benzophenone is a photosensitizing agent that protects against Ultraviolet light. The substance is listed on Proposition 65 because exposure to benzophenone might increase cancer risk. Proposition 65 mandates that businesses provide a health warning concerning exposure to chemicals listed in Proposition 65. Benzophenone can interfere with reproductive organs and key hormones, according to Craig Downs, the executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. Haereticus Environmental Laboratory is a nonprofit laboratory that studies risks to the environment and human health. Approximately 2,400 sunscreen products contain octocrylene, and the chemical’s safety is unknown. Mr. Downs stated that the FDA does not know if the chemical is safe or not.
Attention about chemicals such as octocrylene in sunscreens began heating up in 2019. In 2019, the FDA requested that manufacturers provide the agency with safety data on octocrylene and other chemical ingredients. Last May, an independent pharmaceutical laboratory discovered levels of benzene in numerous sunscreen products, causing some product recalls. Benzene is another potential carcinogen.
FDA analysis reports that the body absorbs sufficient sunscreens chemical ingredients to justify additional testing. At the time of this article’s publication, there have been no signs that companies have given the safety data the FDA asked for nearly two years ago, according to David Andrews, a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group.
Courtney Rhodes, a spokeswoman for the FDA, stated that the U.S. FDA takes product safety seriously and that the agency will concern monitor the sunscreen marketplace to ensure safe sunscreens are available to U.S. consumers as the agency evaluates the contamination fears.
Mr. Downs and Joe DiNardo, a toxicologist who used to work in the cosmetics industry, worked with researchers at the Paris-based Sorbonne University. They tested (16) sixteen sunscreen products from the U.S. and France that contain octocrylene. The brands tested include Edgewell Personal Care Co.’s Banana Boat SPF 50 lotion, Beiersdorf AG’s Coppertone Water Babies spray, and a Neutrogena Beach Defense spray. These sun care products tested positive for benzophenone contamination.
Downs has been investigating the environmental impact and health issues of sunscreens for several years. Mr. Downs’ research has caused Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ban oxybenzone-containing sunscreens. Oxybenzone is chemically similar to both octocrylene and benzophenone, which are believed to cause coral reef damage. Downs’ research study states that benzophenone forms when octocrylene degrades, and the amount of benzophenone increases over time.
The World Health Organization’s (“WHO”) cancer research branch classifies benzophenone as a possible carcinogen. This finding is based on animal studies. The WHO does not have data on the potential cancer link with humans. Moreover, WHO reports that “research shows that benzophenone in sunscreens can interfere with estrogen.” Estrogen plays a vital role in the health of women, and disrupting estrogen can alter the functioning of reproductive organs and cause early puberty.
Although it is not clear how benzene contaminates sunscreen products, Valisure believes it occurs during the manufacturing process. Valisure, a pharmaceutical testing laboratory, published the test results of nearly 100 sunscreen products. The company also petitions the FDA to take action concerning the benzene contamination results.
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is expected to release the results of its study on sunscreens. Last Thursday, a presentation was made to a National Academies panel. The presentation linked benzophenones found in sunscreens to endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful medical condition when uterine tissue that grows typically within a woman’s uterus begins to grow outside the uterus.
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