Cancer-causing chemical found in cosmetic products

News Excerpt:

According to the independent US laboratory Valisure, high levels of cancer-causing chemical benzene were detected in some acne treatments from brands including Estee Lauder's Clinique, Target's Up & Up and Reckitt Benckiser-owned Clearasil.

More about the news:

  • Valisure stated that benzene could form at "unacceptably high levels" in both prescription and over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide acne treatment products.
  • Valisure has also filed a petition with the US Food and Drug Administration to recall the products, conduct an investigation and revise industry guidance for the unsafe products.

What are Carcinogens:

  • Carcinogens are agents that can cause cancer in humans. 
  • They can be divided into three major categories: chemical carcinogens (including those from biological sources), physical carcinogens, and oncogenic (cancer-causing) viruses.
  • Most carcinogens, singly or in combination, produce cancer by interacting with DNA in cells, interfering with normal cellular function. 

How cosmetic products contain carcinogenic substances:

  • The carcinogen has already been found in several consumer products, including sunscreens, hand sanitizers and dry shampoo, leading to product recalls, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.
  • According to Valisure, the detection of benzene in the acne treatment products was "substantially different" from the other cases.
    • The benzene found in sunscreens and other consumer products were impurities that came from contaminated ingredients.
    • The benzene in benzoyl peroxide products comes from the benzoyl peroxide itself.
  • Valisure's tests showed some products could form more than 800 times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit for benzene.

About Benzene:

  • Benzene is a clear, colourless liquid with a sweet, aromatic odour.
  • It is less dense than water and slightly soluble in water. Hence floats on water.
  • It is used mainly as a starting material in the manufacture of other chemicals, including detergents, pesticides, plastics and resins, synthetic rubber, aviation fuel, pharmaceuticals, dyes, and explosives.
  • Immediate signs and symptoms of exposure to benzene:
    • People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and eventually death. 


The detection of high levels of benzene in acne treatment products from popular brands is alarming. Valisure's petition for a recall and FDA investigation highlights the urgent need for stricter safety regulations in cosmetic products to protect consumers from carcinogenic substances.

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