Benzene—an industrial solvent and a known human carcinogen—has been detected in leading sunscreen brands sold nationwide.
Daily sunscreen use is recommended for people of all ages to help reduce the risk of skin cancer. At least ten percent of the U.S. population wears sunscreen every day, and around two-thirds wear sunscreen when they’re outside for extended periods of time. But tests conducted by a laboratory show that many popular sunscreens contain benzene, a chemical also found in gasoline, pesticides, cigarette smoke, cleaning products, and paint strippers. Instead of preventing cancer, these sunscreens may be causing it.
It is unclear how benzene ended up in sunscreens that don’t list the chemical as an active ingredient. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and product manufacturers are investigating the issue. Our nationally-recognized injury attorneys are investigating it as well and preparing to file lawsuits.
The bottom line is that there’s no acceptable reason for sunscreens to contain a cancer-causing chemical. Benzene is not safe at any level. This is a serious issue that demands accountability and swift action.
Valisure Testing Reveals Benzene in Sunscreen
Valisure is a laboratory that conducts independent testing of the chemical composition of consumer drugs and medications. Previously, Valisure detected high levels of a probable human carcinogen in ranitidine and metformin products.
In its latest headline-making test, Valisure analyzed nearly 300 sunscreen batches from 69 different companies. Benzene was detected in many sunscreen brands at levels that far exceed the FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million (ppm). However, experts say there’s no safe level of exposure to benzene.
“The presence of this known human carcinogen in products widely recommended for the prevention of skin cancer and that are regularly used by adults and children is very troubling,” said Valisure’s Founder and CEO in a statement.
According to Valisure, 78 product batches of sunscreen had detectable levels of Benzene, including the following brand names:
- Banana Boat
- CVS Health
- Fruit of the Earth
- Max Block
- Raw Elements
- Raw Elements
- Sun Bum
- Up & Up
Benzene Linked to Blood Cancers
The mere fact that sunscreen brands used by millions of Americans may be contaminated with benzene is worrying enough. But perhaps more concerning is the types of cancer linked to benzene and how exposure via sunscreen could heighten cancer risks.
The American Cancer Society notes that benzene is associated specifically with blood cancers, including leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma. Research has shown that chemicals in sunscreen products are absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the blood in high levels after application. In addition, a study from Health Canada has shown that applying sunscreen increases the rate at which the skin absorbs benzene.
“There is not a safe level of benzene that can exist in sunscreen products,” Dr. Christopher Bunick, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Yale University, told Valisure. “Even benzene at 0.1 ppm in a sunscreen could expose people to excessively high nanogram amounts of benzene.”
The risk of developing cancer from benzene rises with cumulative exposure, even at very low levels. This is yet another concern, since sunscreen is recommended for daily use. Around 11 percent of Americans say they use sunscreen every day, while 64 percent say they always or almost always use sunscreen when outdoors for extended periods.
J&J Recalls Neutrogena and Aveeno Sunscreens Over Benzene
Valisure has petitioned the FDA to recall benzene-contaminated sunscreens and conduct further investigation into the issue. The agency and sunscreen manufacturers are focused on determining the root cause of contamination.
Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall of several sunscreen products. The company said in a press release that benzene is not an ingredient in any of its sunscreens. David Light of Valisure believes that the benzene is most likely due to contaminated raw materials, rather than a problem with active ingredients.
Some Sunscreens May Be Safer Than Others
The FDA estimates that there are over 11,000 sunscreen products sold in the U.S. About 1 out of 4 sunscreen samples that Valisure tested were positive for benzene. Benzene contamination was found in gels, lotions, and sprays with both chemical and mineral-based active ingredients.
Fortunately, benzene was not detected in many samples. Because sunscreen use is critical to reducing skin cancer risks, people who want to use a safer product should consider one of the brands that Valisure’s testing deemed benzene-free. Tested sunscreens that contain no detectable benzene include:
- Equate Sport Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- Up & Up Continuous Sport Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
- Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen C-Spray SPF 100
- CVS Health Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 55
- Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70
- Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Ultra Light Sunscreen SPF 30
- Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Facial Moisturizer Sunscreen with SPF 30
- Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion Spray, SPF 50
- Hampton Sun Bronze Continuous Mist Sunscreen Spray SPF 70
Making matters more confusing, some of the sunscreen brands that tested positive for benzene also have formulations that tested negative for benzene. To make an informed choice for you and your family, check out the full list of non-benzene sunscreens.
Symptoms of Benzene Cancer
When people are exposed to high levels of benzene, there may be telltale signs such as drowsiness, dizziness, headache, and unconsciousness. But when benzene exposure occurs in relatively small levels, repeated over long periods of time, the effects can be much more insidious.
The major effect of long-term benzene exposure is on the blood and blood-forming organs. By the time blood and bone marrow cancer symptoms are detected, the cancer may already be advanced. Common symptoms of these cancers include:
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Bone/joint pain
- Abdominal pain
Our Sunscreen Cancer Lawyers Can Review Your Case for Free
Industrial chemicals that are proven carcinogens have no place in consumer products. Sunscreen should prevent cancer—not cause it. Manufacturers might not have used benzene as an active ingredient in their sunscreens, but that’s no excuse. At the very least, they should have known they were selling sunscreen products containing benzene. No consumer would have chosen to use a sunscreen with this dangerous chemical in it. Those who did now have to worry about life-threatening cancer risks.
If you or a family member regularly used a benzene sunscreen and have been diagnosed with a blood-related cancer, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the sunscreen’s manufacturer. A lawsuit can provide compensation for medical bills, lost wages, medical monitoring, and more.