Benzene sunscreen dangers and how it causes cancer
Firstly, it is essential to mention that benzene is not one of the ingredients in sunscreen. The issue of benzene in sunscreen is related to manufacturing contamination, not to sunscreen formulations, as this is how the chemical ended up in the products. When it is at room temperature, benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid that has a sweet odor and is highly flammable.
It is a toxic chemical used to make products such as plastic, rubber, and pesticides, but wildfires and volcano eruptions create it naturally.
Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency classify benzene as a human carcinogen, as exposure can cause various types of cancer. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the sunscreen on the market, deems benzene as a class 1 solvent, meaning that exposure to it must be avoided as much as possible because it is a health hazard. Needless to say, the agency also states that the chemical should not be used in the manufacturing of drug substances or drug products.
When a person applies sunscreen with benzene to their skin, the harmful chemical is absorbed by their body and inevitably enters the bloodstream, which can carry it to any organ and tissue. According to a 2021 study, benzene is believed by researchers to trigger the onset of cancer by producing chronic inflammation and suppressing the immune system (source: Occupational and Environmental Medicine). Nevertheless, if sunscreen containing benzene proves to be a widespread problem, the accumulation of benzene in the body can result in a significant chronic exposure, which places individuals who regularly use these products at high risk for cancer.
Eligibility criteria for toxic sunscreen claims
Everyone who has been using sunscreen with benzene and came to struggle with acute myeloid leukemia should get in touch with our legal team, as we have the necessary experience to obtain compensation for you. Nonetheless, some eligibility requirements must be met by a person who intends to file a benzene sunscreen claim, which are the following:
- they must have an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis
- they must have used a benzene aerosol sunscreen over the course of 5 years or more
- they must file their claim within the statute of limitations
It is important to note that, in order to qualify, you must have used the benzene aerosol sunscreen for 50 days or longer during each year. This is because only long-term exposure to benzene has a definitive connection with cancer.
If you meet these requirements, you become entitled to compensation from the company whose harmful sunscreen you have been using, which our knowledgeable attorneys, who have a strong scientific background, will help you obtain. Do not hesitate to contact us, even if you have doubts that you meet the eligibility criteria, as these cases are complex and unique, and you may actually qualify.
Aerosol sunscreen sprays brands found to contain benzene
Fortunately, not every brand of sunscreen on the market is contaminated with benzene, so you can find safe, non-toxic alternatives if you have been using one or more of the products below. It is paramount to cease using sunscreen if you have been applying one of these products.
However, what is also extremely important is to continue using some type of sunscreen, preferably with a high SPF, as medical experts strongly advocate for regular sunscreen use, informing consumers that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as two of the safest and most effective active ingredients in these products.
- Sun Bum
- CVS Health
- Fruit of the Earth
- Raw Elements
- Banana Boat
- TopCare Everyday
- Live Better by CVS Health
- Ethical Zinc
- Max Block
- La Roche-Posay
- Up & Up
With our Benzene Sunscreen Replacement Initiative, anyone who used toxic sunscreen can now receive safe, non-toxic replacement sunscreen. Those that developed diseases will be prioritized. Please fill out the form to apply.
Liability for sunscreen companies containing benzene
People who filed a lawsuit against one or more of the manufacturers whose sunscreen was found to contain benzene by the Valisure study will receive financial compensation if the companies are found liable for acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. Acting intentionally means that the sunscreen manufacturers had prior knowledge of the benzene in their products, but chose to ignore the issue out of convenience or to save money, as testing for toxic agents is not very cheap. Consequently, the expected causes of action against major companies such as Johnson & Johnson include the following strict liability, product liability, and negligence claims:
- defective design
- manufacturing defect
- failure to warn
- improper warning labels
- consumer fraud
- deceptive trade practices
- negligence per se
- gross negligence
- fraudulent concealment
- fraudulent misrepresentation
- negligent misrepresentation
- breach of implied warranties
Voluntary recall for sunscreen containing benzene
On July 14, 2021, the major companies Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno, and Neutrogena announced their recall on five aerosol sunscreen products because laboratory testing had found low concentrations of benzene.
The chemical poses a health threat even in small concentrations, especially when it comes to sunscreen, as people apply it regularly, some even more than once a day.
Consequently, they would regularly be exposed to benzene. For this reason, the three manufacturers acted ethically, although the recalled products are now the subject of multiple sunscreen lawsuits because the manufacturers were still negligent. These are the benzene sunscreen products that the companies have recalled:
- Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreen
On September 30, Coppertone also voluntarily recalled several lots of five aerosol sunscreen products made between January 10 and June 15. Some of the lots that contain benzene are the following:
- Coppertone Pure & Simple SPF 50 aerosol sunscreen (5 oz)
- Coppertone Pure & Simple Kids SPF 50 aerosol sunscreen (5 oz)
- Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby SPF 50 aerosol sunscreen (5 oz)
- Coppertone Sport Mineral SPF 50 aerosol sunscreen (5 oz)
- Coppertone Sport Spray SPF 50 aerosol sunscreen, travel size (1.6 oz)
The companies continue to investigate how the chemical ended up in their products, but Johnson & Johnson said that the amount found in their sunscreen is unlikely to cause negative health consequences. Valisure, on the other hand, filed a citizen petition with the help of the Food and Drug Administration, urging a recall of 40 tainted batches of sunscreen, including all samples that had a benzene level of at least 0.1 ppm. According to the testing of the pharmacy, several of the products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson had concentrations of benzene considerably above the safe and acceptable limit set up by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the Valisure statement, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Yale University Dr. Christopher Bunick, M.D. and Ph.D. said that "it is critical that regulatory agencies address benzene contamination in sunscreens and all topical medications at the manufacturing and final product level so that all individuals feel safe using sunscreen products."
Indeed, health agencies need to attend to the issue of benzene in sunscreen as urgently as possible, as there is currently no safe exposure limit for benzene and the 2 ppm concentration limit only applies in special circumstances, which exempt sunscreen manufacturing.
A timeline of studies, recalls, and lawsuits concerning benzene sunscreen
While the issue of benzene in sunscreen is relatively new, a lot has been happening with regard to it over recent months, including recalls coming from major companies and lawsuits filed by outraged consumers. The following is a timeline highlighting the most important events with regard to benzene sunscreen.
- March 2022: The Food and Drug Administration is going after Valisure, the independent laboratory whose researchers found benzene in the sunscreen of dozens of popular companies. For this reason, the complaints of consumers with regard to this issue could be derailed. While the agency and manufacturers seem to have found Valisure's testing credible, as it prompted the recall of over 25 million products, the Food and Drug Administration spent several weeks combing through Valisure's facilities ultimately accused it of operating without proper regulatory approvals. The agency decided to conduct the inspection because it believes Valisure conducts tests for companies seeking its approval to distribute products for sale and has accused the laboratory of violating applicable regulations. However, Valisure insists that the agency has it wrong – "I think we’re very clear in all of our disclosures and contracts that we do independent quality assurance. We don’t do regulatory work for anyone," says David Light, founder and CEO of Valisure.
- December 23, 2021: Banana Boat recalls 3 sunscreen products due to their benzene content, namely Banana Boat Ultra Very High Protection Clear Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+, Banana Boat Simply Protect Kids Very High Protection Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF 50+, and Banana Boat Dry Balance Very High Protection Clear Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+. The company warns consumers that all batches with the expiry date of January 31, 2024, or earlier should not be used anymore because of the possible health risks associated with benzene. Furthermore, consumers who had been using these sunscreen products can ask for a refund from Banana Boat.
- December 21, 2021: According to Consumer Reports, Johnson & Johnson claimed last summer that their sunscreen products did not pose a health threat, as they did not contain a high concentration of benzene. However, a recent assessment from the Food and Drug Administration that has not been made public until now says otherwise. While Johnson & Johnson advised consumers to stop using the tainted products upon the recall, it downplayed the potential risks of benzene exposure from its sunscreen. The corporation said the analysis of the sunscreen found that the concentration of benzene "would not be expected to cause adverse health effects," even with regular exposure. But the internal report, which is titled "A Health Hazard Evaluation", came to a different conclusion. It states that the tests led by Johnson & Johnson actually found levels of benzene 5 to 12 times above the safe limit. At such a high level, the internal report said that serious adverse effects "were likely to occur," including the "permanent impairment of a body function."
- November 1, 2021: Johnson & Johnson and Costco Wholesale Corporation agree to settle the lawsuit filed by consumers who had been using the company's benzene-containing sunscreen in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida. However, the details of the terms were not made public. "This agreement, which is subject to court approval, is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing. We strongly dispute the merits of these lawsuits and stand behind our position that we marketed our sunscreen products appropriately and responsibly," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
- September 2021: Coppertone also voluntarily recalled multiple lots of 5 sunscreen products manufactured between January 10 and June 15. Accordingly, the contaminated products are Coppertone Pure & Simple SPF 50, Coppertone Pure & Simple Kids SPF 50, Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby SPF 50, Coppertone Sport Mineral SPF 50, and Coppertone Sport Spray SPF 50. The reason why the products were recalled is the same – the company tested some of the sunscreens it manufactured and found traces of benzene, which can cause cancer even if a person is exposed to small doses of the chemical.
- July 14, 2021: Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall on 5 sunscreen products as a consequence of the results of the study led by Valisure LLC. The products that will no longer be found on the shelves are Beach Defense, Cool Dry Sport, Invisible Daily, and Ultra Sheer, all of which had been manufactured by Neutrogena, as well as the Aveeno Protect + Refresh sunscreen. The company stated that internal testing found low levels of benzene in some products. Furthermore, it advises consumers to stop using contaminated sunscreen products. The next day, a lawsuit was filed in a federal court in California by Johanna Dominguez and Sharron Meijer against Johnson & Johnson (no. 3:21-CV-05419).
- May 25, 2021: The next day after Valisure LLC made public the results of the study concerning sunscreen tainted with benzene and filed a citizen petition, a class-action lawsuit was filed in a federal court of Florida by Meredith Serota against Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena (no. 0:21-cv-61103). It claims that the companies broke federal law and state consumer protection statutes by failing to list benzene as one of the ingredients on the label of their sunscreen products. The lawsuit includes anyone who bought a contaminated product, except the people in California, since May 25, 2017, even if they did not develop cancer. More specifically, the complaint says, "Benzene, a known human carcinogen, is not on the FDA's list of acceptable active or inactive ingredients for sunscreen products. Nor is benzene identified as an active or inactive ingredient on any of the Neutrogena sunscreen products. Nevertheless, defendants proclaim in their advertising that 'Neutrogena maintains that the sunscreen ingredients we use are safe and effective,' which is a false and misleading statement."
- May 24, 2021: Valisure LLC, a testing laboratory headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, made public the results of a study that found high concentrations of benzene, a dangerous chemical, in 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products that were currently on the market across the U.S. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health classifies benzene as a human carcinogen and lists skin absorption as a route of exposure. Other appalling findings of the study include the fact that some batches had up to 3 times the safe concentration limit of 2 parts per million (ppm) of benzene. Because the discoveries were so unsettling, Valisure LLC asked for a recall of the tainted batches and requested the Food and Drug Administration to better define the limits for benzene in drug and cosmetic products.
In addition to seeking legal assistance, which our benzene sunscreen recall attorneys can help with, consumers should also try to get a refund for their recalled sunscreen by calling the Consumer Care Center of Johnson & Johnson at 800.458.1673. Nevertheless, it is crucial to not sign anything releasing the company from liability.