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Sunscreens recalled after dangerous benzene levels detected

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced a voluntary recall on July 14 of five aerosol sunscreen products after independent tests discovered they were contaminated with cancer-causing benzene.

While five products have been pulled from store shelves, the tests discovered dozens of sunscreens and after-sun skincare products containing detectable benzene levels.

Products recalled by J&J

Connecticut-based online pharmacy and laboratory Valisure conducted the tests and released its findings in May. It took nearly two months for J&J to issue a recall for these products:

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

Facts about benzene

Benzene is a naturally occurring chemical created by forest fires and volcanoes and is manufactured – found in rubber products, lubricants, dyes, detergents, pesticides, drugs and other items. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says long-term exposure to the toxin is linked to:

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Other blood-related cancers

Valisure urges a more extensive recall

Valisure found that nearly 25% of the 294 products it investigated tested positive for benzene. The company filed a citizen’s petition asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue mandatory recalls on 40 products that contain higher levels of the toxin.

In all, the company tested sunscreens and skincare products from 69 companies. The brands with higher levels of benzene include Neutrogena, CVS Health, Fruit of the Earth and Sun Bum. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said recalls should have happened sooner.

How do I know if my sunscreen is a hazard?

J&J urged customers to discard unused portions of the products listed in its recall notice. However, what about the dozens of brands on Valisure’s list? Since benzene isn’t meant to be included in these products, checking ingredient lists on packaging won’t help.

You can access Valisure’s report online to view all the products tested and those listed with dangerously high levels of benzene. You can also access specific lots of Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreens on a list provided by J&J. Customers can also call J&J to ask questions or request refunds at 1-800-458-1673.