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Carcinogen Found in Dozens of Sunscreen Products

Your sunscreen may protect you from the sun, but there is a decent chance it also exposes you to a harmful chemical. Benzene is found in at least 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products on the market today, according to Valisure, a company that independently checks the chemical composition of medications. According to a Valisure press release: “27% of samples tested by Valisure contained detectable benzene and some batches contained up to three times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million (ppm).” Benzene is classified as a human carcinogen — meaning it causes cancer, or helps cancer to grow, in humans — by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Valisure says the toxicity of benzene in humans first was recognized more than a century ago. The company also cites a 2010 review of benzene research that declared “there is probably no safe level of exposure to benzene.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates sunscreens, also has acknowledged the toxicity of benzene. The federal agency allows a limited amount of it in products only when it is “unavoidable in order to produce a drug product with a significant therapeutic advance.” Still, Valisure now is petitioning the FDA to better define its restrictions on benzene, and is requesting recalls of the 78 sunscreens it found to contain benzene. It would not be the first time this year that products were recalled for that reason. In April and May, a couple of brands of hand sanitizers were recalled due to the presence of benzene, among other substances.

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