Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced July 14 they are recalling five sunscreen products due to the presence of benzene, a known carcinogen. The recall affects only aerosol Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen products, which the company advises consumers should stop using immediately. This recall was also announced by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the FDA announcement, J&J is voluntarily “recalling all lots of five NEUTROGENA® and AVEENO® aerosol sunscreen product lines to the consumer level. Internal testing identified low levels of benzene in some samples of the products.” The affected products include:
- NEUTROGENA®Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA®Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA®Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA®Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen
- AVEENO®Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen
These products are available nationwide, through a variety of retail stores and online.
This recall comes a little over a month after independent lab Valisure sounded the alarm to the FDA. In a letter, Valisure noted that after testing 300 popular sunscreens for benzene, they found the substance in more than 27% of samples.
What is benzene?
Benzene is produced by both man-made and natural processes, and is widely used across the United States in making plastics, lubricants, pesticides, and solvents. Cigarette smoke and gasoline also contain benzene. It is colorless, flammable, and has a sweet odor. According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is linked to leukemia and other cancers of the blood.
People may experience exposure to benzene through breathing it in, or through skin contact (like gasoline or, now, contaminated sunscreen).
The American Cancer Society notes that several agencies have determined the cancer-causing potential of benzene, including:
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer
- The National Toxicology Program
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
You can find out more about how these agencies determine whether something is a human carcinogen here.
Are there dangerous levels of benzene in the recalled sunscreen?
Here is what Johnson & Johnson has to say in their announcement:
Based on exposure modeling and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) framework, daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling all lots of these specific aerosol sunscreen products.
They also note that benzyne is not an ingredient in any of their sunscreen products, but was indeed found in these finished products. The company is currently investigating as to how the substance made its way into the affected lots of sunscreen.
What should I do if I have the J&J sunscreen?
If you are a consumer with one of these specific products, stop using them immediately. According to the J&J announcement, you can contact their Consumer Care Center to ask questions or request a refund at 1-800-458-1673.
If you or a loved one have experienced adverse health effects or problems from using these products, talk to your physician immediately. Do not discard the product; hold onto it in the event you need to consult with a Richmond product liability attorney regarding your injuries.
You should also report any adverse reactions or quality issues with a product to the FDA:
- Online form fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm
- Download form fda.gov/MedWatch/getforms.htmor call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178
Should I stop using all sunscreen? Is it dangerous?
No. In addition to J&J themselves advising consumers to find an alternate sunscreen to use, the FDA does as well, stating: “Sunscreen use is critical to public health. Melanoma incidences continue to increase worldwide, and the majority of cases are caused by excessive sun exposure.”
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) answers some common questions about sunscreen and health risks.
- Has the FDA stated that sunscreen ingredients are unsafe? No, but they have proposed a rule requesting manufacturers provide more information about their sunscreen ingredients. They primarily want to study the effects of sunscreen and skin absorption.
- Does the FDA classify sunscreen ingredients? Under their proposed rule, the FDA would recognize two ingredients as “generally recognized as safe and effective” (GRASE). These ingredients are titanium dioxide and zine oxide. This excludes PABA and tolamine, which are no longer sold legally in the United States.
- What ingredients has the FDA not classified as GRASE? The FDA is collecting more safety data on the following 12 sunscreen ingredients: ensulizole, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, meradimate, padimate O, and sulisobenzone.
Per the AAD, “Scientific studies support wearing sunscreen on a regular basis to protect against skin cancer. The FDA continues to tell Americans that they should apply sunscreen.”
At Phelan Petty, we protect those injured by defective and dangerous products. If you or a family member were harmed by sunscreen or another consumer product, we want to hear from you. We will work to hold these companies accountable and help secure you financial compensation for your injuries. To learn more about how we can help you, please call 804-980-7100, or fill out our contact form. We serve Richmond and the surrounding areas.
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Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.