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Australian Sunscreens to be Tested for Chemicals that Cause Cancer after American Studies Raised the Alarm

Sunscreens sold in Australia will be tested after US studies found they contained two cancer-causing chemicals; Australia’s leading medical regulator has confirmed.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is investigating if brands sold across Australia could contain the carcinogens benzene and benzophenone. The regulator said it was testing samples containing benzene or octocrylene 'for the presence of benzophenone and compliance with existing standards'.

The alarm was raised in June when US company Valisure tested generic medicines for purity and found nearly 80 sunscreens contained the carcinogen benzene.

Another American laboratory found most sunscreens that contained the approved chemical octocrylene had another carcinogenic substance – benzophenone.

The TGA said it conducted routine laboratory testing and reviewed the safety of Australian sunscreen products but did not regularly check for carcinogens.

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, an American testing laboratory, wrote to the US Food and Drugs Administration requesting it pull all sunscreens containing octocrylene from shelves.

American researchers also found octocrylene degraded into benzophenone which 'may act as a reproductive toxicant' by interfering with hormones.

Food or food packaging containing benzophenone are banned in the US.

However, in the US octocrylene is approved for use in sunscreens, lip balms, moisturizers, and anti-ageing products. Popular brands found to contain the carcinogenic substances.

Aware of the findings in the US, the TGA noted some sunscreen products sold in Australia contain the active ingredient octocrylene but only at a maximum concentration of 10 per cent.

Based on available data the TGA said it does not consider octocrylene, at the permitted concentration, to present an 'unacceptable safety risk'. 

The medical regulator has also noted trace amounts of the cancer-causing chemical benzophenone in products which contain in octocrylene.

The TGA is actively monitoring the available data about the carcinogenic potential of benzophenone,' it said.

There is currently insufficient information to conclude that sunscreens that are compliant with existing requirements for product stability and impurities, such as benzophenone, are unsafe.

According to Australia’s Department of Health and Ageing, Australia and New Zealand have the highest skin cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world!

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