A testing lab named Valisure has asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall around 78 sun care products from the market as a carcinogen has been detected in these sunscreens. The testing lab has sent a petition to the FDA warning that these sun care products have been found to have unsafe levels of a chemical known as benzene. The testing lab company has asked the FDA to withdraw these products from the market and start their own investigation into the probable contamination. Valisure is a Connecticut-based testing lab firm that aims to go beyond in certifying the safety of the drugs it tests along with products that are sold via its own pharmacy. In 2018, the testing lab firm has informed the FDA about a cancer-causing substance known as NDMA in drugs that have contained an active ingredient called ranitidine like the over-the-counter drug Zantac. The FDA and other regulatory agencies have validated the findings of the company and issued an order to recall all ranitidine drugs from the market. It is still not clear whether these drugs will make a comeback in the market. In the month of March 2021, the company has approached the FDA and notified about the levels of benzene in hand sanitizers. The agency has acted upon the discovery and issued an order of voluntary recall of some products. Now, the testing lab company has come up with the same claims about some sunscreens and after sun care products.
Experts from Valisure have tested around 300 brands of such sunscreens and after sun care products that are sold by 69 companies. They have claimed that nearly 78 products contain a much higher concentration of benzene than what is permitted by the FDA conditionally. Experts from the firm have written in their citizen petition that the presence of this human carcinogen in these sun care products that are widely recommended for preventing skin cancer and their regular use by kids and adults in greater volumes make the findings quite worrying. The firm has listed some potentially contaminated products in the petition as well. Health experts have said that benzene is a colorless and vaguely yellowish liquid at room temperature. It can be found in the atmosphere and it can be used as a solvent in the making of plastics and other products. However, the chemical can be highly lethal in high doses. Many past studies have shown that regular exposure to this chemical can shoot up the risk of developing cancer among people. The chemical is prevalent in cigarette smoking as well. Health experts have warned saying that benzene can increase the risk of blood cancers such as leukemia as well. The FDA does not allow the intentional usage of benzene in drugs and other consumer products that are regulated by the agency. However, the agency has specified a safety threshold for its usage if inevitable that is at two parts per million (PPM). At present, the FDA does not see sunscreens as a possible source of benzene but even if the agency has looked at them as a possible source, the company says it would have detected benzene in some batches at levels greater than 2 PPM.
Most of the sunscreens that have been tested by the company have not contained benzene; therefore, the company has said that the health agency should not allow any amount of benzene in sunscreens. Dr. Christopher Bunick, who is an associate professor of dermatology at Yale University, has said that there is no safe amount of benzene for sun care products. He has said that even benzene at a level of 0.1 PPM in sunscreens can put people at risk of exposure to excessively high nanogram amounts of benzene. The claims of the company are more troubling as the FDA has shown some evidence that some chemicals present in sunscreens can be absorbed by the skin quite quickly and in much higher levels than what is perceived. Although experts from the agency have not been able to find out whether or not it will put people at risk. However, this is another reason why the agency should be prompt to take an action considering the claims of the testing lab. In its petition, the company has asked the FDA to reevaluate how these products should be regulated. The officials of the firm have said that the agency should keep these findings in priority as the FDA is going to introduce its latest guidelines for sunscreen regulation. The FDA is yet to respond to the petition. The testing lab company has released a list of sun care products that do not contain benzene and safe for people. The officials have also laid out a proper way to dispose of products that contain benzene as they pose a greater risk to the environment and marine wildlife as well.