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Benzene Tainted Sunscreens are Recalled Due to Cancer Risk

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Both Neutragena and Aveeno have pulled some of their sunscreen products from the shelves due to high levels of the toxic chemical benzene. 

The companies recently pulled several sunscreens from market shelves after independent testing had found they were contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical called benzene.

“Exposure to benzene increases the risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

All batches, or lots, of these four Neutrogena spray sunscreens and one Aveeno spray were voluntarily recalled this week by parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) “out of an abundance of caution”:

  • Neutrogena® Beach Defense® aerosol
  • Neutrogena® Cool Dry Sport aerosol
  • Neutrogena® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol
  • Neutrogena® Ultra Sheer® aerosol
  • Aveeno® Protect + Refresh aerosol

“While benzene is not an ingredient in any of our sunscreen products, it was detected in some samples of the impacted aerosol sunscreen finished products,” J&J reported in a statement. “Consumers should stop using these specific products and appropriately discard them.”

The WHO, EPA, and National Toxicology Program classify benzene as a known human carcinogen and is not permitted in any sunscreen product. 

Those with claims pending against Johnson & Johnson relating to the benzene content in the company’s Neutrogena aerosol sunscreen products have filed a petition with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, requesting the creation of a multidistrict litigation docket.

In the petition, the plaintiffs asked the JPML to transfer the growing number of cases to the U.S. District for the District of New Jersey.

“The actions involve nearly identical factual allegations that J&J’s sunscreen sprays are defective in that they contain the presence of benzene, a chemical linked to blood cancers …”

The popularity of Neutrogena and Aveen skincare and sunscreen products demonstrates the need for multidistrict litigation.  This coupled with the fact that the claims will have similar fact patterns make the case for a new MDL to handle what are expected to be thousands of claims against the parent company Johnson & Johnson. 

According to the Daily Voice, “A team of researchers is now asking the Food and Drug Administration to recall a number of sunscreen brands after finding that they may contain a cancer-causing chemical.

This follows an earlier recall of five sunscreen brands.

The New York Post reported that a team of researchers led by Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory Craig Downs asked the FDA to recall sunscreens containing octocrylene. They said the ingredient could degrade to suspected carcinogen benzophenone.”

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