Studies show that sunscreen makers have been manufacturing lotions and sprays with concerning levels of cancer-causing benzene.

Man putting on sunscreen that may contain BenzeneValisure, an online pharmacy and lab, has announced they found benzene, a known carcinogen, in 78 commonly available sunscreen products. They have asked the FDA to recall these products from Banana Boat, CVS Health, and other brands. In response, Johnson & Johnson has already recalled most sunscreen sprays with benzene and cancer risk products from their Aveeno and Neutrogena brands.

Benzene is a naturally occurring substance that is highly toxic to humans and has been shown to cause cancer – particularly leukemia and other blood-based cancers. The substance is typically found in oil and gasoline, cigarette smoke, plastics, and other synthetic chemicals and materials.

Because sunscreen is recommended for use by the medical community for essentially our entire lives and most parts of our bodies, the related exposure to benzene is potentially long-term and dangerous.

Frequently Asked Questions about Benzene in Sunscreen

What is benzene?

According to the FDA, “Benzene is a chemical that is released into the air from emissions from automobiles and burning coal and crude oil. It is also used in the manufacture of a wide range of industrial products, including chemicals, dyes, detergents, and some plastics.”

Can benzene cause cancer?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) notes that “chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure has caused various disorders in the blood, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anemia, in occupational settings. Increased incidence of leukemia (cancer of the tissues that form white blood cells) have been observed in humans occupationally exposed to benzene […] EPA has classified benzene as known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure.”

Is all sunscreen dangerous because of benzene?

No, benzene is not actually a listed ingredient in sunscreen, but a side effect of certain manufacturing processes. Customers should expect and demand that manufacturers not use these processes to prevent long-term exposure to the benzene carcinogen.

Of course I’ve used sunscreen. Should I be concerned?

Potentially. It’s always important to stay up to date on regular medical and cancer screenings. The biggest problem with the findings of benzene in sunscreen products is that even if the chemical is present in small amounts, it has likely been applied to the body many times over many years, resulting in long term benzene exposure.

What are the symptoms of benzene exposure?

According to the CDC, being exposed to benzene may quickly result in drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and potentially even death. In addition, ingesting benzene can cause vomiting, stomachache, and convulsions. External exposure on the skin or eyes can damage the tissue.

Where do you get benzene exposure?

Gasoline and automobile exhaust, industrial emissions and waste water, small enclosed spaces with fumes from glues, solvents, paints, and art supplies, and more are all potential exposure pathways according to the American Cancer Society. Cigarettes, including secondhand smoke, account for about fifty percent of exposure in the United States. And now, studies show that sunscreen is yet another source of benzene exposure.

Can benzene kill you?

Exposure for as few as five minutes to high levels of benzene — Yes. Short-term high-level exposure between 10,000 and 20,000 parts per million can prove lethal per the Environmental Defense Fund. Long-term exposure, such as using sunscreen with benzene for many years, can lead to cancer and you should consider contacting benzene lawyers.

How much benzene does it take to cause cancer?

While it is known that heavy exposure to benzene does cause cancer, more and more research shows that it can also be dangerous at lesser levels. A study published in the medical journal Carcinogensis tells us that benzene is found to cause cancer at exposure rates even lower than the permissible exposure rate in the US of 1 part per million. Exposure is also possible from breathing contaminated air.

Can I keep using sunscreen?

Yes, for all of the reasons we are taught since childhood about the dangers of sun exposure. However, please consult with your doctor or other medical professional to confirm which sunscreens are safe and, in particular, do not contain dangerous substances like benzene. “The majority of products we tested — ­­over 200 of them — had no detectable amounts of benzene, and uncontaminated sunscreen should certainly continue to be used,” said David Light, CEO of Valisure, the lab that performed the tests related to benzene exposure.

What should I do next?

Those who have been diagnosed with leukemia or another blood-based cancer and believe they have been using sunscreen contaminated with benzene should reach out to Belluck & Fox attorneys immediately for a free consultation on your legal options. You may be eligible for a benzene payout or benzene settlement if you are eligible for a benzene lawsuit.

Why should I choose Belluck & Fox?

Woman potentially experiencing Benzene exposure while applying sunscreen
Belluck & Fox is a nationally recognized law firm that fights for its clients and their families as if they were our own. We don’t just know the law, in many cases we helped to write it. When you work with us, you start your journey with one of our firm’s partners, and have regular access to them or one of our experienced attorneys throughout the entire process. We have secured over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements holding corporations accountable.