Johnson & Johnson is recalling five of its sunscreen products in the US after low levels of benzene, a carcinogen, was found in its products.
The recall comes after Valisure, an independent laboratory, raised the alarm over benzene’s presence in Johnson & Johnson’s products. In a report released in May, Valisure noted that “27% of samples … contained detectable benzene and some batches contained up to three times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million”.
The affected products, all packaged in aerosol cans, include four Neutrogena sprays – Beach Defense, CoolDry Sport, Invisible Daily Defense and UltraSheer – and Aveeno’s Protect + Refresh sunscreen. The products were distributed across the country through various retailers.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the company said: “Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling all lots of these specific aerosol sunscreen products.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzene is a highly flammable and widely used chemical that is either colorless or yellow with a sweet odor. It is often found in plastics, rubbers, dyes, pesticides and synthetic fibers. Low levels of benzene can also be found in outdoor air, mostly from industrial emissions, gas stations and vehicle exhaust.
Benzene can cause cells to stop working and result in loss of white blood cells. Long-term exposure, which the CDC defines as a year or more, can contribute to leukemia or excessive bleeding.
“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,” according to Johnson & Johnson. The healthcare manufacturer is investigating how traces of the chemical entered the products.
In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson has urged all consumers to stop using the products and discard them, and has notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the recall.