Researchers are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pull certain sunscreens from the market after the presence of a possible carcinogen was discovered.
Craig Downs, executive director of the nonprofit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL), led researchers in a letter requesting that products containing the sunscreen ingredient octocrylene be pulled from shelves after it was discovered that it may degrade to benzophenone, a possible carcinogen that can also interfere with hormones such as estrogen.
Octocrylene potentially transforms itself into a carcinogen
The researchers pointed to data that suggested octocrylene stayed in the human body at levels significantly higher than the level of concern for system toxicity. According to the researchers, this level of concern was observed for up to six days after the chemical was absorbed into the body and could still be detected in blood for up to 10 days more.
The researchers also pointed to octocrylene’s history of being a known skin sensitizer, often causing reactions on skin when applied topically.
In their petition, the researchers noted that octocrylene can be found in more 2,300 SPF products. One benefit that is touted for octocrylene is its ability to not only absorb UV radiation but also stabilize avobenzone, another sun filter.
“Unfortunately, these benefits appear to be outweighed by the risks associated with its own instability and decomposition to the carcinogen benzophenone,” they wrote.
Companies such as Neutrogena, Coppertone and Supergoop all include octocrylene in their sunscreen products.
In a letter dated Aug. 5, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that it had received the petition.
FDA spokeswoman Courtney Rhodes told Bloomberg that the agency “takes seriously any safety concerns raised about products we regulate, including sunscreen,” adding that it “will continue to monitor the sunscreen marketplace to help ensure the availability of safe sunscreens for U.S. consumers” while it looks into the concerns raised by the researchers.
Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would be pulling five of its sunscreen products from the market after low levels of benzene, another possible carcinogen, was found in its products, including four from Neutrogena and one from Aveeno.
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