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Health risk assessment: Benzene in cosmetics


Benzene is an industrial solvent which is found naturally in crude oils and as a by-product of oil-refining processes. It is classified as carcinogenic to humans and is not intentionally added to cosmetic formulations or products. However, sometimes its presence can be technically unavoidable as a residual solvent or impurity (in organic propellants) or as a contaminant. There are restrictions for the use of benzene in cosmetics both overseas and in New Zealand, where cosmetics must not contain benzene other than at a trace level. In 2021, several types of cosmetic products (deodorants, antiperspirants, sunscreens) in the US and Australia were tested and found to contain benzene. No information was found on benzene in products other than deodorants/antiperspirants and sunscreen and hence, the current risk assessment was confined to these products. The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for incidental exposure to benzene in cosmetics, and considers the most common or likely exposure scenarios.