78 Sunscreen Products Contain Cancer-Causing Benzene – Study Proves Sunscreens Accelerate Benzene Skin Absorption
NEW HAVEN, CT – On May 25, 2021, Valisure LLC tested 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products for safety. Valisure published its findings that many of the sunscreen and after-sun products were contaminated with Benzene, a known human carcinogen. Valisure independently verifies and certifies the chemical composition of drugs prior to marketing. Valisure’s report states that approximately 27% of the test samples contained traces of Benzene and some products had up to three times the FDA concentration restriction of 2 parts per million (ppm).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies sunscreen products as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After-sun care products are classified and regulated by FDA as cosmetics. On May 24, 2021, Valisure issued a Citizen Petition to the FDA requesting the agency recall the contaminated products. Also, the petition calls for the FDA to “better define limits for Benzene contamination in cosmetic and drug products.” Valisure also noted that some of the sunscreen and after-sun products did not contain Benzene, and there are several uncontaminated sunscreen and after-sun products available for protection against harmful solar radiation.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other governmental agencies, Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified Benzene as a cancer-causing substance and lists “inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact” as pathways into the human body.
Valisure is asking for a recall of the contaminated batches and requesting FDA better define limits for benzene contamination in drug and cosmetic products. It is important to note that not all sunscreen products contain Benzene and that uncontaminated products are available, should continue to be used, and are important for protecting against potentially harmful solar radiation.
According to an article on pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, a study measured the in vitro penetration of Benzene through human skin under a variety of swimming and bathing conditions. The experiments showed the application of a moisturizer, baby oil, or insect repellant prior to the skin before Benzene exposure did not affect the absorption rate of Benzene in human tissue. However, the test results showed “a significant increase was observed when the skin was pretreated with sunscreen.”
Benzene is also known to be absorbed by the human body when Benzene fumes are inhaled. It has been globally acknowledged that liquid Benzene, as such or contained in certain solvents, is absorbed through the skin percutaneously, but the major absorption of Benzene is thought to occur through inhalation.
According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology’s article “Penetration of Benzene Through Human Skin,” 46% of Benzene that is inhaled is absorbed into the human body. https://pdf.sciencedirectassets.com. For example, if a person has a respiratory rate of 16 per minute with 0.5 liters of gas volume per breath, “7.5 Ill of Benzene would be absorbed each hour through the lungs of a person working in an environment of 10 ppm.”
The results of the study concern product safety advocates because sunscreen and after-sun care products are applied to the skin. Therefore, sun care products contaminated with Benzene could be absorbed into the user’s body through skin absorption and inhalation. Sunscreens are also shown to increase the absorption rate through the skin.
A list of Valisure’s test results and the products affected may be reviewed here.
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