Concentrations of the sunscreen agent benzophenone-3 in residents of the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003--2004

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jul;116(7):893-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11269.


Background: The capability of benzophenone-3 (BP-3) to absorb and dissipate ultraviolet radiation facilitates its use as a sunscreen agent. BP-3 has other uses in many consumer products (e.g., as fragrance and flavor enhancer, photoinitiator, ultraviolet curing agent, polymerization inhibitor).

Objectives: Our goal was to assess exposure to BP-3 in a representative sample of the U.S. general population > or = 6 years of age.

Methods: Using automated solid-phase extraction coupled to high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, we analyzed 2,517 urine samples collected as part of the 2003--2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Results: We detected BP-3 in 96.8% of the samples. The geometric mean and 95th percentile concentrations were 22.9 microg/L (22.2 microg/g creatinine) and 1,040 microg/L (1,070 microg/g creatinine), respectively. Least-square geometric mean (LSGM) concentrations were significantly higher (p < or = 0.04) for females than for males, regardless of age. LSGM concentrations were significantly higher for non-Hispanic whites than for non-Hispanic blacks (p < or = 0.01), regardless of age. Females were more likely than males [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 3.5; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.9-6.5], and non-Hispanic whites were more likely than non-Hispanic blacks (adjusted OR = 6.8; 95% CI, 2.9-16.2) to have concentrations above the 95th percentile.

Conclusions: Exposure to BP-3 was prevalent in the general U.S. population during 2003--2004. Differences by sex and race/ethnicity probably reflect differences in use of personal care products containing BP-3.

Keywords: NHANES 2003–2004; benzophenone-3; biomonitoring; exposure; human; sunscreen; urine.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Benzophenones / urine*
  • Child
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Factors
  • Sunscreening Agents / analysis*
  • United States


  • Benzophenones
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • oxybenzone