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An independent testing laboratory tested the chemical benzene, a known human carcinogen, in 78. proven Sunscreen Products and is now asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall the products.
The Valisure laboratory tests medicines and health products for their quality. The company recently tested nearly 300 sunscreen products and found that it contained 27% benzene. according to the company. Fourteen of the products (5%) contained benzene in excess of 2 parts per million (ppm), which is the FDA recommended limit for benzene in medicinal products that cannot be made without it.
“The presence of this known human carcinogen in products commonly used for the prevention of Skin cancer and that are used regularly by adults and children is very worrying, “said David Light, founder and CEO of Valisure, in the statement.
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Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid that forms naturally but is also produced by human activities Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, car exhaust and the burning of coal and oil can release benzene into the air; The chemical is also used in the manufacture of some plastics, rubbers, dyes, detergents, medicines, and pesticides, according to the CDC.
Exposure to high levels of benzene causes cancers, particularly blood cancers, in humans leukemia. The US Agency for Occupational Safety and Health limits exposure to benzene in the air in the workplace to 1 ppm on an average day and a maximum of 5 ppm over a period of 15 minutes according to the American Cancer Society. The Environmental Protection Agency limits benzene in drinking water to 0.005 ppm, or 5 parts per billion (ppb), which is also the limit for bottled water.
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The FDA says that benzene should only be used in the manufacture of drugs in special circumstances, especially when its use is unavoidable and the drug makes a significant therapeutic advance. In these cases, the benzene content should be limited to 2 ppm, “unless otherwise justified”, says the FDA. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was a shortage of hand sanitizer, the FDA temporarily approved Hand sanitizer contains up to 2 ppm benzene. But in March 2021, Valisure announced that she detected benzene above this value in nearly two dozen hand sanitizer products, at least one of which was later remembered.
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Given the new knowledge about benzene in sunscreens, Valisure requested the FDA recall the 78 products and conduct our own manufacturing research on those products. See the petition for a full list of benzene sunscreens. Almost all of the 14 sunscreen products with benzene levels above 2 ppm were sprays; but the chemical was also shown in lotions and gels for sunburn relief.
Although the FDA says benzene should not be used in the manufacture of drugs, the agency doesn’t set a specific limit on drugs like sunscreens (the FDA regulates sunscreens as an over-the-counter drug). The limit value of 2 ppm only applies to the “special circumstances” named by the agency. Therefore, Valisure is also urging the FDA to set a limit for benzene levels in sunscreens and other drugs in standard situations and a limit for exposure in a single day.
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Because benzene was not detected in most of the sunscreens tested by Valisure, the company says the use of benzene in sunscreens is not “inevitable” and any detectable amount of the chemical should not be allowed.
“It is important that regulators address benzene contamination in sunscreen … so that everyone can feel safe using sunscreen products,” said Dr. Christopher Bunick, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Yale University, in the statement.
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In a statement sent to Live Science, the FDA said it was reviewing the petition. “The FDA takes seriously all safety concerns raised about products we regulate, including sunscreens. While the agency reviews the submitted citizen petition, we will continue to monitor the sunscreen market and manufacturing efforts to ensure the availability of safe sunscreens to US consumers, “the statement said. The agency added that it generally has no comments on pending petitions.
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The results don’t mean people should stop using sunscreens, which can help prevent skin cancer, Bunick said.
“Many of the sunscreen products that Valisure tested showed no benzene contamination and these products are believed to be safe and should continue to be used with appropriate hats and sun protective clothing to reduce the risk of skin cancer,” said Bunick.
Originally published on Live Science.