NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Last month, The FDA recalled three batches of Banana Boat sunscreen because they had traces of benzene, which is a cancer-causing chemical. It's ironic, considering the whole point of sunscreens is to avoid cancer.
Unfortunately, it’s the continuance of a trend. Several other brands of sunscreen were recalled for the same reason last October. And last year, a New Haven company called Valisure released a report claiming that over a quarter of the sunscreens and after-sun products they tested had benzene in them, 78 in all.
Dr. Christopher Bunick from the Yale School of Medicine said that these were cases of contamination.
“Benzene is not an ingredient, and it's not a breakdown product of the ingredients. It was a manufacturing contamination,” Bunick said. “And a lot of companies like Johnson & Johnson and others have taken steps to increase their quality control to make sure that this benzene is not propagating in their sunscreens.”
There have also been questions about how accurate both the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF numbers, and water resistance ratings are.
“The truth is that yes, there could be some positive or negative range based on what is there,” said Bunick.
“As a whole, the industry is working to be better at having the number on the bottle like the SPF, or having the water resistance accurate, and the FDA has sort of cracked down a little bit on making sure the labels have the rigorous testing behind them," Bunick explained. "So actually, I think we're in a better place than we ever have been, where the value of what you see in the store is pretty accurate.”
Dr. Bunick said, despite that, the far bigger problem is not manufacturing errors, it’s user errors. It’s far more dangerous to use too little sunscreen, or avoid it altogether, he said.
“I think that all of these sunscreens have their place, they're all very good, despite some of the controversies that might be out there,” Bunick said. “Again, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.”
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