Potential Carcinogens in Aerosol Sunscreens May Increase Cancer Risk Among Users

A high-profile sunscreen recall issued by Johnson & Johnson in July has led to a careful review of other potentially harmful sunscreen products that may contain carcinogenic chemicals that can expose users to an increased risk of cancer. In the wake of the sunscreen recall, Johnson & Johnson faces a growing number of lawsuits alleging that the company negligently marketed its sunscreen products as a way to reduce the risk of skin cancer without disclosing that the aerosol products may contain dangerous levels of a known carcinogen. If you or someone you know used any of the aerosol sunscreen products included in the recall, such as Neutrogena’s Beach Defense, Cool Dry Sport, Invisible Daily Defense, or Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreens, or Aveeno’s Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen, and has since been diagnosed with cancer, do not hesitate to speak to a knowledgeable product liability lawyer about your legal rights. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

J&J Recalls Spray-on Sunscreen Products Containing Benzene

In July, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled several different Neutrogena and Aveeno spray-on sunscreen products after it was discovered that the sunscreens unexpectedly contained benzene, a chemical that the American Cancer Society says is known to cause cancer, including leukemia and other cancers of the blood cells. The recall was announced after independent lab testing found that, of 294 sunscreen samples from 69 brands of sunscreen and after-sun sprays, creams, lotions, and gels, 78 tested positive for the carcinogen benzene. “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 stated in the recall announcement. “Consumers should stop using these specific products and appropriately discard them.”

Sunscreen May Contain Harmful Active Ingredient

In the weeks after the Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen recall was announced, other sunscreen and after-sun care products that may be harmful to human health have faced increased scrutiny. Based on recent research findings, a group of scientists from the non-profit organization Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL) has called on the FDA to remove from the market thousands of other potentially toxic sunscreens, including popular brand-name products like Neutrogena, Banana Boat, and Coppertone, due to the presence of potential carcinogens. The petition cites research published earlier this year in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, which indicates that the source of the benzene contamination in certain sunscreen products may be linked to octocrylene, an ingredient commonly used in sunscreen to capture harmful UV rays before they can damage the skin.

In order to better understand the potential human health risks of certain sunscreens and other personal care products, the authors of the Chemical Research in Toxicology study, led by the executive director of HEL, in coordination with researchers from Sorbonne University in Paris, France, tested 16 octocrylene-based sunscreen products and found that all 16 tested positive for benzophenone, “a mutagen, carcinogen, and endocrine disruptor.” Benzophenone is commonly used in lip balm, nail polish and other products to protect them from UV light. The use of benzophenone in food products or food packaging is banned in the U.S., and “Under California Proposition 65, there is no safe harbor for benzophenone in any personal care products, including sunscreens, anti-aging creams, and moisturizers.”

Potential Risk of Cancer from Aerosol Sunscreen

According to this new study, titled “Benzophenone Accumulates over Time from the Degradation of Octocrylene in Commercial Sunscreen Products,” there were 2,999 SPF products containing octocrylene in 2019, which is cause for concern, considering the fact that octocrylene generates benzophenone and “up to 70% of the benzophenone in these sunscreen products may be absorbed through the skin.” According to the CDC, long-term exposure to benzene can adversely affect the blood, possibly leading to side effects like anemia, excessive bleeding, reproductive and immune system disorders, and even cancers of the blood, such as leukemia, and it is estimated that millions of consumers may be exposed to an increased risk of cancer due to the unexpected presence of benzene in sunscreen products. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that “the safety of octocrylene as a benzophenone generator in SPF or any consumer products should be expeditiously reviewed by regulatory agencies.”