Dozens of popular sunscreens have been contaminated with benzene, a chemical that can cause cancer, report finds


  • Sunscreen products from brands like Neutrogena and CVS Health have been contaminated with benzene
  • Valisure, an independent lab that does consumer watchdog testing, reported the benzene contamination
  • Benzene is not an ingredient of sunscreen
  • Health experts say sunscreen is still safe and important to use to protect against sun damage

After losing out on an entire summer to the pandemic last year, Americans are eager to lather up with sunscreen and head to their nearest beaches now that vaccines have stifled coronavirus transmission in the U.S.

But a recent report found dozens of popular sunscreen products have been contaminated with a chemical, called benzene, that is known to cause cancer.

Valisure, a Connecticut-based online pharmacy and laboratory, tested and analyzed 294 unique batches from 69 different companies and found 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products contained the chemical.

Benzene is not an ingredient of sunscreen products. Health experts speculate the chemical may have contaminated these products during the manufacturing process, as benzene levels varied between batches of the same product from the same companies.

The company’s citizen petition is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to recall 40 sunscreen and after-sun care products found to contain higher levels of benzene. The brands include Neutrogena, Sun Bum, CVS Health and Fruit of the Earth.

Valisure also is requesting the FDA recall tested products made by Raw Elements, SunBurnt, Goodsense, Banana Boat, TopCare Everyday and EltaMD, although benzene levels in these products fell within the agency’s allowable concentration limit of 2 parts per million.

In statements sent to USA TODAY, the companies said they were reviewing and evaluating information from the petition. Neutrogena topped the list of products with the highest levels of benzene.

“We take the information shared in the citizen’s petition very seriously and are acting with the utmost urgency,” the company said in a statement. “We are committed to making high-quality, safe and effective sunscreens available to consumers as sunscreen is critical to public health.”

The report, published just after Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, comes just months after Valisure found benzene in 44 of 260 hand sanitizer products it tested in March.

“It is unfortunately apparent that benzene contamination is a broad and very concerning issue in the American consumer product supply chain, and it underscores the critical need for independent testing,” said David Light, founder and CEO of Valisure.

The FDA said in a statement to USA TODAY that it would continue to monitor the sunscreen marketplace and its manufacturing efforts while it evaluates the citizen petition.

Sorry, Gwyneth Paltrow:Dermatologists say the star’s sunscreen routine is dangerous

Summer’s here:Everyone is going to want to take a summer vacation in 2021. But are you ready to join them?

“The agency reminds manufacturers, distributors, repackagers and importers they are responsible for the quality of their products and urges manufacturers to test their ingredients to ensure they meet specifications and are free from harmful contamination,” the statement said.

The products ranged from lotions to aloe and gel, but more than half of the listed products were sprays. Health experts say sprays may be more dangerous than lotions because there’s a higher chance of inhaling the harmful contaminants.

Benzene is a chemical that can be found in both natural and manufacturing processes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be found in volcanoes and forest fires, as well as crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke.

While benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the U.S., the American Cancer Society said benzene is known to cause cancer. Long-term exposure to benzene mainly harms the bone marrow and has been associated with blood cancers such as leukemia.

Some industries employ benzene to make other chemicals used in making plastics, resins, nylon, synthetic fibers, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides, the CDC says.

“To put it into context, benzene is all around us … it’s in tobacco smoke, it’s in gasoline, it’s in the air outside when we walk around,” said Dr. Min Deng, dermatologist at Medstar Health. “The indoor levels of benzene are higher than the outdoor levels of benzene.”

Any level of benzene is harmful to humans, but Deng urges consumers to continue to wear sunscreen, as the sun is known to cause the most common cancer in the United States – skin cancer.

According to the CDC, about 4.3 million adults are treated for the most common types of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas – each year.

“The link between the sun and skin cancer is stronger than the link between smoking and lung cancer,” she said. “I would urge patients to review the list, find a product on the list that was tested as benzene contaminant-free and try to use those products.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Mum reveals $10 reason son can't have 'normal life'

For Lykera Parker, seeing another child walk can trigger a pang of sadness. Because she knows that while her son Kalarny is as bubbly and outgoing as any four-year-old, he ... Read more »

COVID-19: Cases fall in the Netherlands and UK, while Italy and Romania push vaccines

While COVID-19 cases fall in some European countries, others fear a fourth wave of infections is underway. Cases in the Netherlands have fallen by 44% compared to last week, according ... Read more »

Schools implement mask mandates even as some states impose bans; US reports one case every second: Live COVID-19 updates

The U.S. Department of Education Monday released a roadmap for the return to school this fall, encouraging districts to invest in physical and emotional support for students. Among the roadmap’s ... Read more »

Cobblestone stones honor WWII gay and lesbian resistance fighters

Karel Pekelharing stone. Photo: DutchNews.nl Nine Jewish gay and lesbian resistance figurines are to be given their own “Stolperstein” or commemorative street tiles in front of their last known address. ... Read more »

Covid UK news – live: Vaccine to be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds as UK sees highest deaths since mid-March

✕ Close Coronavirus in numbers The coronavirus vaccination programme looks set to be rolled out to more than a million 16- and 17-year-olds. It is expected ministers will on Wednesday ... Read more »

Obese mice lose weight ‘sweating out' fat in an immune system experiment, despite eating more

In search of better treatments for type 2 diabetes and other consequences of obesity, Taku Kambayashi has long wondered if he could harness a bodily function that most think about ... Read more »

NYC will have the first government-issued vaccine mandate in the US. Here's what we know.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio just mandated proof of vaccination for indoor restaurants, gyms and performance venues. Here’s how that will work. Read more »

Peak hospital admissions seems to have been reached, 44% fewer new infections

Increase in IC In the past week, 541 new COVID-19 hospitalizations were registered compared to 564 the week before. “In the past week, there were 130 new admissions to the ... Read more »

The Path to Forgiveness When Someone Hurts You: How to Forgive, Let Go, and Protect Yourself

When you’ve been hurt by someone you trust, you might feel angry or resentful, especially if it keeps happening. Forgiving the person who is hurting you can rid you of ... Read more »

How to Boost Your Confidence (13 Steps to Help Your Social Anxiety)

Are you sometimes nervous to speak up and say what’s on your mind? It’s okay to be a little shy every now and then, but it might prevent you from ... Read more »

This South Korean company has figured out how to get the best night's sleep. Does sleep tech work?

A lack of sleep not only makes us grumpy in the mornings but it can also affect our health too. There are a range of gadgets out there with many ... Read more »

NHS must work in “new ways” to deliver care, says new chief executive

Amanda Pritchard during a visit to University College Hospital London, following the announcement of her appointment as the new chief executive of the NHS in England. (PA) The health service ... Read more »

3 ways to show you've gotten the COVID-19 vaccine

Did you misplace your vaccine passport? Here are three other ways you can prove you’ve been vaccinated. Read more »

Covid-19 antibody test: what does your result mean? Why a high score is good but doesn't tell the whole story

Standing in a taxi queue recently I overheard a middle-aged man say to a woman of similar age ahead of him in line, “I got 650”. Whatever he was referring ... Read more »

One-third of all COVID cases reported in Florida and Texas; US reaches 70% of partially vaccinated adults: COVID-19 updates

Florida and Texas had one-third of all COVID cases reported last week, White House COVID-19 Response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a Monday news conference. Florida broke two records — ... Read more »

Rabobank to compensate customers who have paid too much interest

Photo: Rabobank Rabobank is working to settle thousands of customers who have paid large amounts of interest on consumer loans, Cooperative Bank said Tuesday. The decision focuses on the high ... Read more »

Covid UK news - live: PM U-turns on amber watchlist as England could be ‘over the edge' of third wave

✕ Close Boris Johnson hints at U-turn on amber watchlist Plans for an “amber watchlist” have been abandoned as ministers prepare to review the traffic light system which will decide ... Read more »

How to Verify a Physician's License in California

Before you choose a physician for any type of treatment, it’s always a good idea to verify their license. This assures you that their license is in good standing and ... Read more »

Sailing Bronze has won a total of 19 Dutch medals and will win even more.

Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz during the race. Photo: Olaf Kraak ANP In the disappointing medal race of Sailor Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz, she was pushed back to the ... Read more »

From AI to ice vests: How Tokyo 2020 athletes are adapting to the hottest Olympics ever

Tokyo 2020 is likely to go down in history as the hottest modern Olympic and Paralympic Games ever. Daily high temperatures in the Japanese capital have hovered around 31C throughout ... Read more »

How to Use a Monocular

A monocular is like a small telescope. It is smaller and lighter than binoculars while packing the same power. To use a monocular, make sure that you keep a firm ... Read more »

Poorer communities see twice as many smoking related cancers as richer areas, says study

Smoking is linked to poverty and is causing more cancers in poorer communities (Getty Images/iStockphoto) There are nearly twice as many cancers caused by smoking among the poorest people in ... Read more »

Paramedics left in tears from ‘unsustainable demand', warns union

Unison has warned ambulance chiefs that the pressure is taking its toll on their workforce (Getty) Paramedics are being left in tears at the end of stressful shifts, with some ... Read more »

How to Use Apple Health

This wikiHow teaches you how to get started with Apple Health on your iPhone. The Health app makes it easy to access your important health information, including your medical history, ... Read more »

How to Understand Social Distancing

The term “social distancing” is all over the news, but what does it really mean? This term refers to staying a specific distance away from other people to help prevent ... Read more »

How to Treat a Bruised Thigh Muscle

Ouch! A bruised thigh is no joke. The front of your thigh is composed of large muscles called your quadriceps, and anybody who’s ever taken a direct hit there can ... Read more »

How to Treat Tunnel Wounds

A tunnel wound is a secondary wound that occurs alongside a primary wound, and it’s usually caused by an infection or pressure. This kind of wound extends into layers of ... Read more »

How to Treat Overmethylation

Methylation is a fairly complex process, but basically, it’s the natural process where methyl groups (one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) are transferred throughout your body. This happens billions of ... Read more »

How to Treat Numbness in Legs and Feet

Numbness in your legs and feet can cause discomfort and awkwardness, but it’s usually no cause for alarm. If you sit or stand in the same position for an extended ... Read more »

How to Treat Liver Fibrosis

Your liver is an incredible organ—it can grow back from almost nothing. But if it’s damaged too often, it can lead to a condition called fibrosis. The good news is ... Read more »

50 per cent vaxxed is not enough to safely lift restrictions: Doherty Institute

If NSW reaches its target of 6 million Covid-19 vaccinations by the end of the month it will still be “a long way” from being safe from the virus, according ... Read more »

How to Treat Crepitus

Crepitus is a general term for the crackling or popping sound made by a joint. This is typically caused by cartilage or soft tissue rubbing against a joint during movement, ... Read more »

How to Treat Cold Feet

Having cold feet is a pretty common problem, especially during the wintertime. However, if you have persistent cold feet, you could have an underlying condition such as Reynaud’s phenomenon. Fortunately, ... Read more »

How to Treat Buttock Folliculitis

Folliculitis is a common condition causing inflamed hair follicles and a raised rash. While it can occur anywhere on your body, the buttocks are a common area for an outbreak. ... Read more »

'People who do not want to be vaccinated may go elsewhere': Court backs Indiana University mandate

INDIANAPOLIS — Students who don’t like Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement can go elsewhere for their education. That was the message delivered by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in ... Read more »

How to Take a Mankind Unwanted Kit

A Mankind Unwanted Kit is made up of 1 pill called mifepristone and 4 pills called misoprostol that your OB/GYN can give you. These are taken to terminate an unwanted ... Read more »

How to Take Control of Your Health

No matter what our existing health, financial, mental, economic, or social situation is, there are things we can each do to take (better) control of our own health. No one ... Read more »

How to Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself can feel like a really big task, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Learn to manage your physical, mental, and emotional health so that you ... Read more »

Japanese shadow painting master delivers hope, delight in Seoul

Read more »

How to Store Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid, or ascorbate, is another name for vitamin C. Ascorbic acid helps your body grow and repair itself and is an essential nutrient. Unfortunately, it is also very delicate ... Read more »