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Johnson & Johnson Instructs Consumers To Return Benzene-containing Sunscreen

Published on September 28th, 2021 by Andrew Hughes

The fallout continues for Neutrogena manufacturer Johnson & Johnson over the recall of numerous brands of its spray-on sunscreen that contained benzene. In May of 2021, the consumer product testing company Valisure released a report finding benzene in many brands of sunscreen. It took nearly two months for Johnson & Johnson to announce a recall of more than 20 types of Neutrogena sunscreen. The company said this was being done out of an abundance of caution. They asserted that despite the presence of benzene in their products, Neutrogena aerosol sunscreens would not cause any adverse health effects.

Consumers Following Directions

The label of Neutrogena sunscreen warns the user to keep it out of your eyes and away from children, but makes no mention of benzene, a known carcinogen. The label directs consumers to use liberally and reapply at least every two hours.  Consumers are directed to reapply the benzene-containing sunscreen after getting wet.

Neutrogena was aware that we were spraying this product on ourselves and our children. And they expected us to be using it multiple times each day we were out in the sun. As such, they had a duty to test their products to ensure that they were safe to use.

We still do not know how long benzene was present in these benzene-tainted sunscreen products. We do not know why it took an unaffiliated third party to inform consumers about the potential hazards of using certain sunscreens, including the fact that some of them contained a product – benzene – that is known to cause leukemia.

But Why Was There Benzene in the Sunscreen?

The current belief is that benzene was a contaminant in the propellant of spray sunscreens. Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena have pointed the finger at other suppliers for this carcinogenic contaminant. A statement on how benzene was not an “ingredient” in the sunscreen does not absolve these companies of responsibility. Simply, every component of the sunscreen should have been tested for the presence of known carcinogens.  We do know that 75% of the sunscreen batches tested had no detectable benzene. Sunscreen can obviously be used safely, and does not need to contain benzene.

Dangers of Benzene

Benzene is a carcinogen and can cause cancer. Benzene is known to cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). It is also linked to other cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma (MM).  Most litigation involving benzene and these cancers involves higher doses of benzene than what was found in Neutrogena sunscreen. But that does not mean that the sunscreen is safe.

We are still learning what low levels of benzene exposures do to children. There is no safe level of benzene exposure. You can read more about this topic here. If you or a loved one regularly uses sunscreen and has developed leukemia or lymphoma, please call 1-800-BENZENE and speak to a lawyer today.

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