A benzene sunscreen lawsuit is a claim against Neutrogena, Aveeno, Johnson & Johnson and others for manufacturing and distributing products with excessive concentrations of benzene. High levels of exposure to this chemical can cause cancer, and leukemia in particular, in humans.
Shouse Law Group is a personal injury and mass tort firm that is representing victims who used one of the recalled sunscreens and subsequently was diagnosed with leukemia. We are accepting cases from all 50 states.
In this article, our Neutrogena lawsuit attorneys will discuss:
- 1. Which sunscreens have been recalled?
- 2. Why were they recalled?
- 3. What is benzene?
- 4. Can benzene cause cancer?
- 5. What are the symptoms of leukemia?
- 6. How much compensation can victims receive?
- 7. What is the current status of the Neutrogena sunscreen lawsuits?
- 8. What if I was diagnosed with leukemia after using a recalled sunblock?
1. Which sunscreens have been recalled?
On July 14, 2021, Johnson & Johnson recalled the following five aerosol spray sunscreens:
- NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen
- NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen
- AVEENO® Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen1
Sunscreens are considered drug products and therefore are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
2. Why were they recalled?
The five recalled Johnson & Johnson sunblocks were found to contain the known carcinogen benzene. The amount of benzene found in these products exceeds the acceptable concentration limit.
This recall came seven weeks after the independent lab and online pharmacy Valisure filed a citizen petition with the FDA. Valisure alleges it discovered higher-than-acceptable concentrations of the cancer-causing chemical in 78 popular sunscreens from various manufacturers.
Valisure’s petition states:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) recommends protective equipment be worn by workers expecting to be exposed to benzene at concentrations of 0.1 ppm [part per million] and defines “ inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact” as exposure routes. Valisure found multiple sunscreen products that contain levels of benzene that significantly surpass the 2 ppm conditional FDA restriction. Furthermore, benzene is associated with certain blood cancers such as leukemia, and recent studies by FDA researchers have shown that significant amounts of sunscreen ingredients absorb through the skin and are found in the blood; specifically, over 400 times the threshold for systemic carcinogenicity assessment for at least one sunscreen active ingredient.2
Therefore several popular sunblocks – which are marketed for the purposes of preventing skin cancer – contain benzene, itself a cancer-causing solvent with high toxicity.
3. What is benzene?
Benzene is a clear, flammable liquid used to make plastics, rubber, paints, and pesticides. It also occurs naturally in crude oil and gasoline.
Benzene exposure often comes from car exhaust, factory emissions, and cigarette smoke. Inhaling high doses of benzene may cause headaches, tremors, and dizziness. And liquid or vapor benzene that touches the skin can lead to irritation and blisters.
The federal agency OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) requires workplaces to give employees PPE (personal protective equipment) if they are exposed to higher-than-allowed benzene levels. And according to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), any product with 5% or more of benzene is hazardous.3
4. Can benzene cause cancer?
Yes. Benzene can cause cancer, particularly the blood cell cancer leukemia. Benzene has been classified as a human carcinogen by the:
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO);
- National Toxicology Program (NTP); and
- U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
According to studies, workers exposed to high levels of benzene – usually through inhalation – are more likely to develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Other types of blood cancer include acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.4
5. What are the symptoms of leukemia?
Leukemia symptoms include:
- Black and blue marks and petechiae
- Fever or chills
- Unintended weight loss
- Frequent or severe infections
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Night sweats
- Bone pain
Leukemia patients typically develop anemia (low red blood cell count) as well as low white blood cells and low platelets.5
Users of the affected J&J sunblocks who suspect they may be experiencing leukemia symptoms are advised to contact their health care provider.
6. How much compensation can victims receive?
Victims who developed leukemia from Johnson & Johnson’s recalled Neutrogena and Aveeno sunblocks may be able to recover compensatory damages for:
- Medical bills, including for such cancer treatments as chemo, radiation, and surgery;
- Lost wages from being too sick to work;
- Loss of future earnings; and
- Pain and suffering
Should the case go to trial, the judge could also order that Johnson & Johnson pay punitive damages if it finds that the company knew about the problem long before the recall.
7. What is the current status of the Neutrogena sunscreen lawsuits?
Litigation has just begun. Soon there may be a federal MDL (multi-district litigation), which helps to speed up the legal process by temporarily consolidating all similar cases into one federal court. But unlike class actions lawsuits, the plaintiffs’ cases in MDLs remain separate.
Expected causes of action against Johnson & Johnson include the following strict liability and negligence claims:
- Defective design
- Manufacturing defect
- Failure to warn / Improper warning labels
- Consumer fraud / Deceptive trade practices
- Negligence per se and gross negligence
- Fraudulent concealment
- Fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation
- Breach of implied and express warranties
On July 14, 2021, a class-action lawsuit was filed in a federal court in California: Johanna Dominguez and Sharron Meijer et al. v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., No. 3:21-CV-05419 (N.D. Cal.). Anyone who bought the affected products is part of the class, even if they did not get sick.6
Consumers can try to get a refund for their recalled sunscreen products by calling the J&J’s Consumer Care Center at 1-800-458-1673. But do not sign anything releasing J&J from liability.
8. What if I was diagnosed with leukemia after using a recalled sunblock?
Contact an attorney right away to discuss your claim. And be sure to preserve any evidence that you used the recalled products, such as the spray bottles themselves and any receipts or records of the purchases. You may qualify to be a plaintiff in a Neutrogena sunscreen lawsuit and receive compensation for your injuries.
- Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Specific NEUTROGENA® and AVEENO® Aerosol Sunscreen Products Due to the Presence of Benzene, J&J Media Center (July 14, 2021); see also Johnson & Johnson is recalling sunscreens due to low levels of benzene, a carcinogen, CBS News (July 15, 2021); see also Sandee LaMotte, Sunscreen recall: What the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for you, CNN (July 17, 2021).
- David Light, CEO, Valisure Citizen Petition on Benzene in Sunscreen and After-sun Care Products, Valisure (May 24, 2001). The tested products included both sprays and lotions with varying SPFs. Some of the other manufacturers and brands tested include CVS Health, Banana Boat, and Fruit of the Earth. Valisure has also found benzene in various hand sanitizer products, which increased in sales during the coronavirus pandemic.
- See note 2; Facts about Benzene, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- See note 3; see also Benzene, National Cancer Institute; see also Benzene and Cancer Risk, Cancer.org.
- Leukemia, Mayo Clinic.
- Another class action was filed in Florida, called Zapatero v. Energizer Holdings, Inc. et al., concerning the affected Banana Boat batches of sunscreen.