Are carcinogen in your sunscreen?

Johnson and Johnson just 'voluntarily' recalled 5 of its sunscreens due to the presence of benzene, a carcinogen in these products.

This is not really news since in May, Valisure announced via a press release that 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products tested out of 294 unique batches of sunscreen from 69 brands contained 2.78 to 6.26 parts per million (ppm) of benzene (FDA limit is 2ppm).

First of all, please do not panic!

We live in the real world and exposures to environmental toxins are inevitable, and that’s ok because our bodies are equipped with detox organs, provided we have reduced our overall burden and supported our detox organs so that exposures can be efficiently eliminated.
Having said that, awareness is always a good thing provided we can put things in perspective and take positive action. 

What is benzene?

Benzene can cause blood cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the chemical as a Group 1 carcinogen, alongside substances such as asbestos. So it is definitely not something we want in everyday products. 
It is still not clear how benzene got into the sunscreen, the hypothesis is that contamination occurred somewhere along the manufacturing process and the supply chain. 

Of note, it is also often found in products made from petroleum derivatives (e.g. paraffin candles, glues, cleaning products), cigarette smoke and gasoline. So, polluted air (either indoor or outdoor) is actually a more common channel of benzene exposure.

What can you do? 

  1. Get educated - take a look at this article which lists out products that tested positive and this list that tested negative for benzene. If you recognize the brand on the testing positive list - switch it out for one on the negative list. To be honest, I wouldn’t touch most of those brands listed anyway given the OTHER harmful chemicals they contain. Check out some safer options here. So, just because a product is on the benzene negative list above doesn't mean it's #DrVivApproved, if it's laden with other endocrine disruptors.

Also, the same brand can test positive AND negative, it seems to be product-specific rather than brand-specific (e.g. Raw Elements has some that are fine but some that are not)… please bear in mind they did not test every brand, so if you don’t find the brand you use on the list, the jury is out.

2. Inadvertent exposure through contaminated products is inevitable. Recalls happens all the time, rather than panicking, I prefer to stay calm and support my detox organs.

Here's the strategy I take in order to stay sane in this polluted world:

a. Do my best to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins through other sources:

  • stop burning paraffin wax candles
  • stop smoking if you do
  • switch to [non-toxic cleaning products] link branch basics
  • Use better personal care products
  • Filter drinking water
  • get an air purifier at home

This will free up my detox organs so that, when I do encounter exposures out of my control, my body can pick up the slack.

Your detox organs are your gut (poop), liver, kidneys, sweat, lungs and lymph - these are working 24/7 to eliminate toxins that we encounter or those generated in our own bodies e.g. by bad bacteria or just through normal energy production. Trouble is, for most people, our detox organs are a little overwhelmed.

Imagine a bath - the water coming in through the faucet is our toxin exposures. The drain is our detox organs that carry these toxins away. When the drain is clogged, but the faucet keeps running, eventually the bath overfills - this is when we experience symptoms which then may lead onto diseases.

The reality is that we will never be able to stop the faucet completely - we live in the real world, one that is unfortunately polluted now. Rather than feeling depressed and overwhelmed, know that, provided you are taking steps to reduce the amount of watering entering whilst ALSO unclogging the drains frequently, you can make a difference.

This is what I teach in my signature course, Detox Right, utilizing science-based methods to reduce our toxic burden - get on the waitlist here. This takes me onto the next strategy...

b. Support your detox pathways. The GREAT news is that we are equipped with detox organs, and benzene can be rapidly eliminated IF our detox pathways are working efficiently. It's a bit like a drain that's been clogged - when your detox pathways are blocked, water can't get out, and overflows - and that's when you get symptoms.

Given how polluted our world is now, supporting your detox pathways (your liver, kidneys, sweat, lymph, lungs) should be a daily habit if you want to stay healthy.

Benzene is mainly broken down:

1. In the liver via the cytochromes (Detox Right students, remember the angry person in the liver module?)
2. Then it's conjugated with amino acids/glutathione (the friends who calm that angry person down)
3. Last but not least, it is excreted via the kidneys

So, do your best to support these pathways!

If you are in the Detox Right fam, you would have the exact blueprint to do this - look at your Detox 101 guide and follow the steps for liver and kidney support.

If you haven't taken my course, here are some basic steps to get started with:

  • Eat more cruciferous vegetables
  • Incorporate citrus & quality protein
  • Incorporate rosemary, garlic, allium, turmeric.
  • Drink plenty of FILTERED water
  • Poop 1-2x per day

Should we only worry about benzene in sunscreen?

No. Sunscreen can be a source of other concerning chemicals like oxybenzone, which have been shown to affect our hormones, affecting our fertility. If you want tips on how to look for a non-toxic sunscreen, and the brands we use, have a look at my other blog post here to see the brands I like and use - full disclosure, many of these products were not included in the Valisure study so I don't know for sure if they don't contain benzene - but a couple of the Thinksport products 

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Finally, the brands I personally use and love: 

- Thinksport and Thinkbaby - benzene were not detected through initial analysis in the Valisure study of these specific products - Thinkbaby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, Thinksport Thinksport Kids Safe Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+, Thinksport Kids Aloe Vera After Sun

- Earth mama - these did not seem to have been tested in the study so I have contacted the company to ask if they are testing it themselves. 

- Badger - benzene was not detected in the batch they tested for these two products:  Chamomile And Calendula SPF 30, Kids Broad Spectrum Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 40 (my kids are not a fan of these sunscreen because they are thick and leave a white mark but they are good sunscreens)