Skip to content

Sunscreen Products Investigated for Containing Benzene, a Known Cancer-Causing Chemical

Sunscreen Products Investigated for Containing Benzene, a Known Cancer-Causing Chemical  The summer season is just beginning. The temperatures in Atlanta, Savannah and across Georgia will likely reach the high 90s during many days. Even lower temperatures can cause sunburns and sun damage when the sky is clear and the sun is shining brightly.

According to Fox4KC, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being asked to recall more than 70 sunscreen products that have a chemical, benzene, that can cause cancer. The request comes from the independent laboratory, Valisure, which analyzes medications and products for quality.

Fox4KC states that Valisure tested 300 sunscreen products and found that more than 25% — or 78 of these 300 products — contain benzene. Fourteen of the 300 products contain high levels: more than 2 parts per million (ppm). The FDA doesn’t recommend that any products have more than 2ppm of benzene, because “high levels of benzene can cause cancer, particularly blood cancer, including leukemia.” The full list of sunscreen products that Valisure is asking the FDA to recall can be seen here.

Valisure, which is based in Rockville, Maryland, requested in its Citizens Petition that the FDA issue a regulation, request recalls, revise industry guidance, and take such other actions as identified in its petition.

According to the FDA, the Citizens Petition can be used to request the FDA to amend an over-the-counter (OTC) drug monograph at any phase of its development and after publication of a final monograph. A monograph is essentially a detailed analysis of a drug that explains its uses, design, doses, side effects, and other pharmaceutical factors. The request for the change of an OTC drug’s monograph should be based on scientifically accepted information.

Why is benzene considered dangerous?

Valisure’s Citizen Petition states that:

  • The lab detected high levels of benzene in products containing avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, homosalate, octocylene and zinc oxide.
  • The CDC has linked benzene to cancer in humans.
  • The WHO classifies benzene as a Group 1 compound, “thereby defining it as ‘carcinogenic to humans.’”
  • The FDA also recognizes that benzene is a dangerous solvent that generally shouldn’t be used to manufacture drug substances and drug products except in limited amounts (2 ppm) to reduce potential toxicity.

Valisure states that the use of benzene in sunscreen products is especially troublesome because adults and children use these products primarily to help reduce the possibility of skin cancer from sun exposure. Benzene can cause the very danger, skin cancer, that people who are using sunscreen products are trying to avoid.

Valisure is primarily requesting that the FDA:

  • Recall the 78 sunscreens the company identified as containing benzene because they are contaminated with a known carcinogen.
  • Conduct an investigation regarding the manufacturing of these products and the manufacturer submissions to the FDA.
  • Inform the public about safe sunscreen alternatives, as well as the benefits of using sunscreen to limit exposure to solar radiation.
  • Develop benzene guidance documents for the use of benzene in sunscreen products.
  • Review, modify, and address necessary rules, regulations, and guidance regarding the use of benzene in sunscreen and cosmetic products.
  • Work with the EPA on “a joint initiative to address benzene contamination and potentially enter into a formal agreement…”

What is UV radiation so dangerous?

Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, ultraviolet light (UV) light “has shorter wavelengths than visible light.” This means that while you can’t see UV rays, your skin still absorbs the UV light. Two types of UV light that increase skin cancer risk are:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA). This has a longer wavelength. UVA is connected to the aging of skin.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB). This shorter wavelength UV light. UVB is connected to the burning of skin.

Both UVA and UVB damage skin in ways that can lead to skin cancer. UV radiation is known to cause basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. If discovered early enough, these types of cancer are usually curable. UV radiation that causes sunburn is a strong factor in the development of melanoma – which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Generally, UV exposure is cumulative over time.

Who is liable if you develop skin cancer through defective sunscreen products?

The manufacturers of sunscreen have a duty to make sure their products are safe. If their products are defective (for example, they contain high amounts of benzene) and the defects cause your skin cancer, then you may file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the defective sunscreen products.

If a doctor fails to diagnose your skin cancer and treat the cancer – in a timely manner – you may have a medical malpractice claim.

At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our experienced product liability and medical malpractice lawyers work with product safety professionals and medical professions who help verify that your illness is due to a defective product or incompetent medical advice. We demand compensation for your lost income and medical bills, as well as pain and suffering. To assert your rights to hold responsible companies and medical professionals accountable for your damages, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or fill out our contact page to share your experience.


Scroll To Top