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Johnson & Johnson Announces Sunscreen Recall

Published on September 15th, 2021 by Andrew Hughes

On May 24th, 2021, Valisure published the results of a study that found benzene in various brands of sunscreen. Several versions of Neutrogena-brand sunscreen had the highest levels of benzene. For the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless brand, the benzene levels were more than three times what is permitted by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Johnson & Johnson makes Neutrogena sunscreen. After being informed that benzene – a known carcinogen – was in its sunscreens, Johnson & Johnson waited more than 50 days to issue a sunscreen recall.

An Unsatisfactory Sunscreen Recall

The sunscreen recalls have not lingered in the news cycle. Many people may not have learned that their leukemia diagnosis – or that of a loved one – could have been caused by sunscreens tainted with benzene. Johnson & Johnson has issued a press release and removed the sunscreens found to contain benzene from store shelves.

Neutrogena’s advertising budget was estimated to be more than $100 million in 2020. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer is the best-selling non-private label brand of sunscreen (sales nearing $120 million annually).

At a minimum, Neutrogena is responsible for ensuring that individuals using their products 1) are advised that their sunscreen products contain a carcinogen known to cause leukemia, and 2) stop using the products. How many millions of dollars did Neutrogena spend to inform brand loyal customers that its sunscreens contained benzene? Are mothers and fathers still spraying the subject Neutrogena sunscreens on their children?

Johnson & Johnson’s credo is “We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors, and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” That idea must have been forgotten when Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena waited 50 days to take action to safeguard their customers.

Benzene Can Cause Cancer

It has been known for decades that long-term exposures to benzene can cause cancers like acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). A more recent analysis of prior studies on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and benzene exposures has found a causality between benzene exposure and NHL. Other studies have shown increases in the rate of multiple myeloma (MM), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and other blood or bone cancers when people were exposed to benzene.

Can You Be “Safely Exposed” To Benzene?

Johnson & Johnson put out the press release for the Neutrogena sunscreen recall and noted the recall was out of an abundance of caution. They added that they did not believe there would be adverse health effects from using Neutrogena aerosol sunscreen.

It is true that most studies connecting benzene to cancer involve elevated benzene exposure – often amongst tradespeople like mechanics. But it is also true that as a carcinogen, there is no safe level of benzene exposure.

The benzene in sunscreen can be absorbed through the skin.  This is known as dermal exposure.  Benzene can also be inhaled.  Individuals applying benzene-containing sunscreens over and over were undoubtedly receiving repeated dermal and inhalation exposures.  These Neutrogena sunscreens are being recalled for good reason.

Sunscreen Recall – Next Steps

Hughes Law Offices has years of experience in benzene exposure litigation. As these cases move toward trial, the defendants will deny responsibility. You can read more about sunscreen and benzene and what may be required from you as a plaintiff here. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bone or blood cancer and used one of the recalled Neutrogena spray sunscreens regularly, there may be a case. You can call 1-800-BENZENE and speak with a lawyer today.

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