Benzene - Chemical Compound and Why Popular Sunscreen's are Being Recalled

Benzene - Chemical Compound and Why Popular Sunscreen's are Being Recalled

In July of this year, products were voluntarily recalled do to the presence of the chemical compound benzene being found in batches approved for consumption. This raises many questions... but have no fear, The Sunny Scoop is here to answer them.

 

What is Benzene? 

Let's get this straight, benzene is not an intended ingredient in any sunscreen yet benzene contamination is more of a common health concern than you would expect, with one study showing it had contaminated more than 50 different sunscreens. 

Benzene is a chemical compound that's highly flammable and volatile. It is found in petrol, crude oil and cigarette smoke as it's a byproduct of the refining processes, burnt tobacco and tar. The chemical is also discharged in volcanic eruptions and forest fires. It is normally used in the manufacturing of:

  • Plastic
  • Detergent
  • Pesticides
  • Dye
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Glues

 

How did Benzene end up in Sunscreen?

Like we previously mentioned, the occurrence of benzene in sunscreen is most likely a contaminant or manufacturing byproduct. But what's interesting is it can also occur during the production of another raw material such as alcohol.

Benzene is a Class 1 carcinogen as classified by the World Health Organisation yet studies have found some sunscreens have indicated a benzene contamination 3 X the approved legal amount. 

Is Benzene Even Dangerous in Sunscreen?

The damage benzene would cause would most likely arise from consistent long term use. The concern here is that it's very common (and only getting more common) for someone to wear sunscreen all day, everyday. This damage could lead to:

 

  • Increased risk for blood disorders and cell-based cancers such as leukemia
  • Decrease in red blood cells can cause harmful effects on the bone marrow which can cause a decrease in red blood cells and lead to anemia. 
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Compromise the immune system and increasing the chance of infections.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Size decrease in ovaries 
  • Cancer (countless studies have proven that benzene causes cancer in humans) 
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