Cancer-causing chemical in aerosol sunscreen could cause leukemia and other serious illnesses

In another potential legal blow to Johnson & Johnson, the American multinational corporation is recalling all lots of five aerosol sunscreen lines. The company conducted internal testing and detected low levels of the human carcinogen benzene.

As a result of these findings, Johnson & Johnson is issuing a voluntary recall, down to the consumer level, of the aerosol versions of the following sunscreen products:

  • NEUTROGENA®Beach Defense® 
  • NEUTROGENA®Cool Dry Sport
  • NEUTROGENA®Invisible Daily™
  • NEUTROGENA®Ultra Sheer® 
  • AVEENO®Protect + Refresh

Johnson & Johnson further states that based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) framework, the benzene levels revealed in testing are unlikely to cause health problems. According to the press release, the sweeping recalls are being issued out of “an abundance of caution.”

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Johnson & Johnson says benzene is not an ingredient

Johnson & Johnson reports that their sunscreen products are not manufactured with benzene as an ingredient. Regardless, samples of the manufactured products indicated low levels of the carcinogen. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating how benzene found its way into Johnson & Johnson sunscreen products, according to Reuters.

In the meanwhile, Bloomberg reported the FDA’s alert to manufacturers, distributors, repackagers, and importers, who the agency said “are responsible for the quality of their products and urges manufacturers to test their ingredients to ensure they meet specifications and are free from harmful contamination.”

Valisure CEO David Light suggests that the presence of the chemical will probably be traced to “contaminated raw materials,” Reuters reports. The pharmaceutical research company tested levels of benzene in nearly 300 brands of sunscreen. In May 2021, it had detected various levels of the carcinogen in 78 of the tested brands, including those mentioned above.

What consumers should know about benzene

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dedicates a full page on its Emergency Preparedness and Response website to benzene. According to the CDC, benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid that occurs in nature and from human activities. The chemical is widely used in the manufacture of plastics, pesticides, detergents, rubbers, and synthetic fibers.

Benzene interferes with cells’ ability to work properly

The CDC further explains the dangers that benzene presents to the human body by causing cells to malfunction: bone marrow that fails to produce an adequate supply of red blood cells, leading to anemia; and immune systems with altered blood levels of antibodies, prompting a drop in white blood cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to benzene is most closely associated with an increased risk of developing blood disorders, including leukemia.

The skin can easily absorb benzene

Typically, exposure to benzene comes from tobacco smoke, industrial emissions, gas stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. The chemical’s presence in aerosol sunscreen products, which are applied directly to the skin, opens a new avenue for exposure that consumers should take reasonable steps to prevent.

Macrene Alexiades, a dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, told Allure Magazine that benzene levels over 6ppm are “very carcinogenic when applied to large skin areas.” According to Alexiades, the fact that benzene is an extremely volatile solvent means that it quickly and easily penetrates the cell membrane and enters the bloodstream.

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Signs and symptoms of benzene exposure

The CDC outlines multiple signs and symptoms that could develop anywhere from minutes to hours after a person has endured exposure to high levels of benzene:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Because Johnson & Johnson’s aerosol sunscreen products are sprayed onto the human body, there is a chance that people could ingest certain levels of benzene. If benzene is inhaled into the lungs, it could cause respiratory problems. Furthermore, at high levels of benzene ingestion, a person could experience:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Convulsions
  • Death

The sunscreen could also be inadvertently sprayed into the eyes, which, along with direct exposure to the skin or lungs, can cause tissue injury, according to the CDC.

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What to do if you purchased one of these recalled sunscreen products

A press release from Johnson & Johnson advises consumers to stop using the above sunscreen products, which were distributed to a variety of retail venues across the country. Furthermore, consumers should:

Seek legal counsel if you are diagnosed with leukemia, cancer, or other illness after using J&J aerosol sunscreens

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine are investigating claims from people who used one of the recalled Johnson & Johnson aerosol sunscreens and subsequently developed leukemia, a blood disorder, or other serious illness.

Call the law firm today for a free consultation by dialing 1-800-747-3733.