The chemical, oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3), is widely used in sunscreens. It was last reviewed for safety in the 1970’s but since then significant new evidence has been published on its toxicity and pervasive exposure. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. A recent review by the European Union found insufficient data to determine whether oxybenzone in sunscreen is safe for consumers. Rebecca Sutton, a scientist with EWG said, “These studies are the latest in a long list of reasons the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must thoroughly review the safety of all chemicals used in sunscreens Americans use every day. FDA must do what it promised 30 years ago: Enact permanent, enforceable federal safety standards for sunscreens so consumers can get the best and safest sun protection.”
Nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain oxybenzone, including products by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat, according to an analysis of ingredient labels by EWG. And, although oxybenzone is most common in sunscreen, companies also use the toxic chemical in at least 567 other personal care products, including lip balm, lipstick, moisturizers and fragrance for women. EWG research shows that 84 percent of 910 name-brand sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients, like oxybenzone, with significant safety concerns. EWG says, "These products are on the market because FDA has failed to finalize sunscreen safety standards that have been under development since 1979, but has instead issued a series of delays and revisions at the request of the personal care product industry. FDA issued a new draft of the standards last October under pressure from EWG, but continues to delay finalizing the standards at the behest of the regulated industry."
Update: On July 1, 2008, EWG issued an update to its Sunscreen Report and database (click here).
Access a release from EWG (click here). Access EWG's research on oxybenzone (click here). Access links to the FDA 2007 Proposed Sunscreen Rule, and related background information (click here). [*Toxics]