On July 14, 2021, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) recalled select NEUTROGENA® and AVEENO® sunscreens for benzene contamination. Benzene is a known human carcinogen, which means it causes cancer in humans.
J&J’s recall came on the heels of an online report from the independent pharmacy, Valisure, that identified benzene in 78 sunscreen and after-sun products from several brands and batches. So far, J&J is the only company to issue a recall, though CVS Health has stopped selling 2 after-sun products, and researchers are asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pull more sunscreens off the market.
What Is Benzene and How Did It Get in My Sunscreen?
Benzene is a volatile chemical compound naturally found in crude oil and gasoline. According to the National Cancer Institute, “exposure to benzene increases the risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders.”
Because benzene is produced by both natural and man-made processes, we are exposed to benzene nearly every day. Nevertheless, benzene exposure poses a risk to human health that grows over time, and federal and state regulations have set limits on the amount of benzene allowed in gasoline and other consumer products. According to Valisure, many tested products exceeded the FDA limit of 2 parts per million.
Benzene is NOT an approved ingredient in sunscreen, and experts say, “there is not a safe level of benzene that can exist in sunscreen products.”
Benzene is not an ingredient in J&J’s sunscreen products, and the company is investigating the cause of the contamination.
How Does Benzene Affect My Health?
You can absorb benzene by inhaling it, through the skin, and orally. Benzene can present immediate health problems and increase your cancer risk over time. The adverse health events you may suffer depend on how much benzene you are exposed to, how the benzene enters your body, and how long the exposure lasts.
After immediate exposure, you may feel dizzy or get a headache, among other symptoms, and excess benzene exposure could lead to benzene poisoning. Chronic benzene exposure causes anemia or white blood cell irregularities and interferes with the immune system, which can lead to leukemia and other cancers and blood disorders.
Using recalled aerosol sunscreens every day could have increased your risk of experiencing an adverse health event because you may have inhaled benzene while spraying the sunscreen and absorbed the benzene through the sunscreen on your skin.
Should I Stop Wearing Sunscreen?
No. You should stop using the recalled sunscreens and consider buying sun-care products that were not implicated in the Valisure study, but you should not stop wearing sunscreen. Excessive sun exposure can cause melanoma (skin cancer), and you need to take appropriate sun protection measures whenever you spend time outside.
J&J recalled the following aerosol products:
- NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen,
- NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen,
- NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen,
- NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen, and
- AVEENO® Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen.
CVS has stopped selling CVS Health After Sun Aloe Vera and CVS Health After Sun Aloe Vera Spray.
You can find an entire list of the products Valisure tested in the, “Everything You Need to Know About the Recent Sunscreen Recalls,” article from Good Housekeeping.
What If I Suffer an Adverse Health Event?
If you experience benzene poisoning or receive a leukemia diagnosis after frequent or daily use of J&J sunscreen products, report the incident to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program and seek medical attention immediately.
Keep in mind that the contaminated sunscreen products you have been using may be related to your diagnosis – and that help is available. Our team can help you hold manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson accountable and recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses.
If you suspect J&J sun-care products have something to do with your cancer diagnosis or poor health, discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible.
The Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli is ready to hear about your situation during a FREE CONSULTATION. We have been representing clients harmed by defective products for more than 20 years, and we can help you, too.
Our team is available 24/7, so don’t hesitate to call us at (516) 628-6402 or contact us online today.