Benzene is a potent cancer-causing chemical that has been linked to a five-fold increased risk of leukemia – a potentially fatal blood cancer. According to Philip Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College who has studied toxic chemicals and human health for 40 years “[t]here’s no such thing as a safe level of exposure, and that’s especially true for children. Benzene actually causes DNA mutations. Even a small dose can set in motion the chain of events that can lead to a cancer a few years later.”. In the United States, employers and manufacturers have been required to limit benzene in their workplaces for over four decades. But recently, independent testing has revealed the presence of benzene in some sunscreens and after-sun skin soothers. Included among the findings were Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena line and a CVS Health Corp. after-sun spray.
More specifically, Valisure, the company that performed the testing, detected high levels of benzene in specific batches of sunscreen products that include the ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, homosalate, octocylene and zinc oxide. And while the study concluded that the presence of benzene appears to be from contamination of sunscreen products containing these ingredients, rather than from degradation of the ingredients themselves, sunscreen products that contain these ingredients may prove a harbinger of potential benzene contamination and put you at risk.
If there is any positive take-aways from this study, it is that the amounts of benzene found in a number of the products Valisure tested were relatively small and less toxic than the doses that resulted regulatory action on benzene. But other products Valisure tested found levels of benzene that significantly exceed the FDA’s 2 ppm conditional restriction – with Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Weightless SunscreenSpray, SPF 100+ showing benzene concentrations at over three (3) times that level. Valisure’s study has raised alarms from public health experts along with many questions about how benzene came to be in, and can be kept out of, these products. Hopefully, answers will be coming very soon. In the meantime, the full study can be found here, and if you have developed leukemia and have been exposed to benzene, you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore your rights.