Is your Sunscreen Contaminated with Benzene?

A recent study came out about high levels of benzene in aftersun and sunblock products. Benzene is a known human carcinogen that causes blood cancer. Big thanks to Valisure for the research!

*Also, when purchasing sunscreen avoid Oxybenzone and Octinoxate ingredients. They not only bad for your body they are terrible for the coral reefs. These ingredients are hormone inhibitors.

Valisure is an independent lab that tests the chemical composition of healthcare products. The below information is courtesy of Valisure’s site they’ve also given a link to sunblock and after skin products that have been tested negative for benzene. For the full article click here.

Valisure LLC has tested and detected high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen, in several brands and batches of sunscreen, which are considered drug products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as in after-sun care products, which are generally regulated by FDA as cosmetics. Benzene is known to cause cancer in humans according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, and other regulatory agencies. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines benzene as a carcinogen and lists “inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact” as exposure routes. 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).

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.

Valisure’s FDA Citizen PetitionComplete Valisure’s FDA Citizen Petition on Sun Care Products (All attachments and other resources linked below.)

Valisure is accepting sunscreen products for analysisa at no costSunscreen Crowdsourcing Study Link

The toxicity of benzene in humans has been well established for over 120 years. The hematotoxicity of benzene has been described as early as 1897. A study from 1939 on benzene stated that “exposure over a long period of time to any concentration of benzene greater than zero is not safe,” which is a comment reiterated in a 2010 review of benzene research specifically stating “There is probably no safe level of exposure to benzene, and all exposures constitute some risk in a linear, if not supralinear, and additive fashion.”  Benzene is specifically associated with blood cancers such as leukemia, making absorption through the skin particularly concerning as there have been multiple studies by FDA researchers showing that chemicals in sunscreen products are found in the blood at high levels after application to the skin.

Valisure’s Findings

Valisure analyzed 294 unique batches from 69 different companies. Significant variability from batch to batch was observed, even within a single company. Fourteen lots of sunscreen and after-sun care products from four different brands contained between 2.78 – 6.26 ppm of benzene; 26 lots from eight brands contained detectable benzene between 0.11 – 1.99 ppm; and 38 lots from 17 brands contained detectable benzene at < 0.1 ppm. Benzene was not detected in an additional 217 batches of sunscreen from 66 different brands through initial analysis of at least one sample. Benzene contamination was detected in sprays, gels, and lotions with both chemical and mineral-based formulations.

Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical at room temperature. It has been used primarily as a solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and is well known to cause cancer in humans. Trace levels of benzene may be found in cigarette smoke, gasoline, glues, adhesives, cleaning products, and paint strippers.

“Valisure’s research identifying benzene contamination in multiple over-the-counter sunscreen products is an extremely important discovery for several reasons. First, it warns people practicing sun protection and skin care that some, but not all, sunscreens have potentially hazardous benzene contamination. Second, it is important for people, especially heading into the summer months, to understand that many sunscreen products tested by Valisure did not have benzene contamination, and those products are presumably safe and should continue to be used, along with appropriate hats and sun-protective clothing, to mitigate skin cancer risk,” according to Dr. Bunick. “I believe it is critical that regulatory agencies address benzene contamination in sunscreens, and all topical medications at the manufacturing and final product level, so that all individuals feel safe using sunscreen products.”

Complete Valisure FDA Citizen Petition Documents:

Full Citizen Petition – Contains lists of products where benzene was detected.

Attachment A – Contains list of products where benzene was not detected.

Attachment B – Resolution from the American College of Cardiology regarding independent testing.

Please read about Responsible Disposal of Potentially Contaminated Products.

aSunscreen products are often available in dozens of formulations from numerous companies, and it is estimated by FDA that over 11,000 sunscreen products are on market in the United States. To further assess the pervasiveness of the presence of benzene in sunscreen and after-sun care products on the U.S. market, Valisure is conducting a crowdsourcing study by inviting participants to send in their sunscreen and after-sun care products for testing. For more information and to participate in this study, please click here.

bThe views and opinions contained at and its related reports on sun care products are that of, LLC and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Valisure, LLC, its members, or Dr. Christopher Bunick.

About Valisure: Valisure’s core mission is to independently check the chemical composition of medications and healthcare products before they reach consumers and deliver that transparency throughout the supply chain as a differentiating partner for quality. In response to rising concerns about counterfeits, generics, and overseas manufacturing, Valisure’s team of Harvard- and Yale-trained scientists developed proprietary analytical technologies to screen products, identify critical issues, and offer certification to help distinguish quality stakeholders and products. Valisure has ISO 17025 accreditation and is DEA and FDA registered.