CDC: Americans Carry ‘Body Burden’ of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 31, 2008

Read EWG analysis

WASHINGTON, March 25 – The bodies of nearly all Americans are contaminated with a sunscreen chemical that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A companion study from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine found that the same chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy.

The chemical, oxybenzone, is widely used in sunscreens. Environmental Working Group's (EWG) analysis of ingredient labels found that nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain oxybenzone, including products by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat. 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.

Oxybenzone was last reviewed for safety in the 1970’s but since then significant new evidence has been published on its toxicity and pervasive exposure. A recent review by the European Union found insufficient data to determine whether oxybenzone in sunscreen is safe for consumers.

“These studies are the latest in a long list of reasons the Food and Drug Administration must thoroughly review the safety of all chemicals used in sunscreens Americans use every day,” said Rebecca Sutton, a scientist with EWG. “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.”

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. 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.



EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.