Chemical Profile: Benzophenone

Chemical Profile Benzophenone MADE SAFE Blog

Why It Matters

Benzophenone and its derivatives can be found in many places, from various cosmetics and personal care products, to over-the-counter drugs, and also to UV filters in sunscreen. Benzophenone can even be present in the standard consumer’s diet due to its ability to migrate from food packing into processed foods, or for its addition as a flavor component. Its prevalence in a variety of consumer products owes to its presence and persistence in the environment. A ubiquitous chemical, benzophenone and its derivatives are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and aquatic toxicity.

What Is It?

Benzophenone, not to be confused with benzophenone-3 (another term for oxybenzone), is known for its ability to protect products against UV light. Therefore, it is a common sunscreen chemical and ingredient in other personal care items. There is a significant body of research on benzophenone’s associated environmental and human health impacts.

Chemical Profile Benzophenone Infographic MADE SAFE Blog

Where It's Found

Benzophenone (also referred to as BMDBM, alpha-Oxodiphenylmethane, alpha-Oxoditane, and benzoylbenzene, among others), can be found in sunscreens, personal care products (such as lotions or soaps), and cosmetics (such as nail polish). Due to its sweet floral scent, it can also be found in fragrances and air freshening products, as well as inks used in some food packaging materials. Floor finishes or coatings ‘cured’ by UV light may also contain benzophenone. [5]

The Health Concern

Benzophenone is listed on California’s Proposition 65 list due to strong evidence indicating it is a carcinogen. [6] It is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” [3] In 2018, the FDA announced benzophenone is no longer allowed for use as a food additive, or as a plasticizer in rubber items intended for consistent food contact, due to evidence of causing cancer in animals. [8] Benzophenone has been reported as migrating from printed surfaces of cardboard boxes into certain foods, like cereals. [1]

Benzophenone and its derivatives are potential endocrine disruptors. [7] There is even evidence that estrogenic products of benzophenone can be activated photochemically, which is a cause for concern in products where it’s used as a UV filter. [4]

Benzophenone is also toxic to aquatic life, [2] persistent in the environment, and bioaccumulative. [4] Benzophenones have exhibited adverse effects on fish reproduction and hormonal functions, yet aquatic life is exposed over entire life cycles due to its prevalence in wastewater and solid waste. [4]

How to Avoid It

Read labels on products like sunscreen, body washes, nail polish, or fragrances to avoid benzophenone. Also:

  • Avoid benzophenone derivatives (e.g., oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, sulisobenzone sodium) by reading labels and using sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the UV filter(s)
  • Opt for products that are “fragrance-free” and “unscented”
  • Eat more fresh, whole foods to avoid food packaging with benzophenone
  • Use floor materials that are not cured with UV light to avoid benzophenone in floor finishes or coatings
  • Shop MADE SAFE Certified products. Benzophenone is not permitted in our Ecosystem Approach.


[1] European Food Safety Authority. (2009). Toxicological evaluation of benzophenone. The EFSA Journal. 1104, 1-30.

[2] Global Safety Management, Inc. (2014). Safety Data Sheet, Benzophenone.

[3] Government of Canada. (2022). Benzophenone – information sheet. Accessed January 28, 2023.

[4] IARC Monographs. (n.d). Benzophenone.

[5] Proposition 65 Warnings, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. (2021). Benzophenone.

[6] Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, (OEHHA). (2012). Chemicals Considered or Listed Under Proposition 65: BenzophenoneCalifornia Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed Jan 26, 2023.

[7] The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange, (TEDX). (2017). Search the TEDX list: benzophenone. Accessed Jan 25, 2018.

[8] U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). FDA Removes 7 Synthetic Flavoring Substances from Food Additives List. Accessed January 26, 2023.

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