Brands like Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena have been around for decades, long enough to earn the trust of millions of customers and become household names.
Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson and other companies recently betrayed this trust when independent lab tests uncovered the cancer-causing chemical benzene in sunscreen products commonly found at CVS, Walgreens, and other pharmacies across the U.S.
You know that sun exposure causes dangerous skin cancer, which is why you bought sunscreen to begin with. So when you find out that the product you were using to protect you from cancer can actually cause cancer… as a customer, you have every right to be upset.
The greater your exposure to benzene, the greater your risk of developing certain cancers such as leukemia. That’s a big problem because people use sunscreen and sunblock products on their skin – the body’s largest organ – often on a daily basis for years, if not an entire lifetime. That adds up to a lot of exposure, possibly starting at a very young age in childhood.
If you’re a parent, you may have bought aerosol sunscreen spray specifically because it’s so much easier to put on your kids before they run outside or jump into the pool. It’s a horrible feeling to realize you were using products that could actually harm your children when you were trying to protect them. You may have thrown out the recalled sunscreen and stopped buying the contaminated brands as soon as you heard the news, but the damage has already been done.
If you, your child, or anyone in your family has been diagnosed with leukemia and you suspect benzene-contaminated sunscreen is the cause, you could take legal action against the brand manufacturer to hold them responsible. A lawsuit could recover the compensation you need to treat your illness, cover your lost income, and make up for your pain and suffering.
Note: Harlan Law is currently taking cases of victims who used benzene-contaminated sunscreen and later developed leukemia anywhere in the U.S. Call us at (619) 870-0802 or use our contact form now for your free legal consultation.
Which Sunscreens Are Contaminated with Benzene?
The first news of benzene contamination came out in May 2021 when Valisure, an independent pharmacy that tests consumer goods, released its report on benzene in sunscreen. In July, Johnson & Johnson started a voluntary recall of aerosol spray sunscreens, including:
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Aerosol Sunscreen Spray (SPF 50)
- Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport Aerosol Sunscreen Spray
- Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Aerosol Sunscreen Spray
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Aerosol Sunscreen Spray (SPF 70 and 100)
- Aveeno Protect + Refresh Aerosol Sunscreen Spray
Unfortunately, this was just the beginning. Since the first recall, the following sunscreen sprays have also been recalled or identified as containing dangerous levels of benzene:
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Sunscreen Spray (SPF 100)
- Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen C-Spray (SPF 100)
- EltaMD UV Aero Broad-Spectrum Full-Body Sunscreen Spray (SPF 45)
- UltraMist Deep Tanning Dry Oil Continuous Clear Spray (SPF 4)
But the problem goes beyond just sunscreens and aerosol sprays. An independent pharmacy that tests consumer goods also found unsafe levels of benzene in sun aftercare products like:
- CVS Health After-Sun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel
- CVS Health After-Sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray
- Eco Formula Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)
- Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel
- Goodsense Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)
- Raw Elements Eco Formula Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)
- Sun Bum Cool Down Gel
- Sun Burst Advanced After-Sun Gel
- SunBurnt Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)
- TopCare Everyday Ultimate Sheer Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 70)
In some of these products, benzene contamination was found at higher than 2 parts per million (ppm), when even trace amounts can be harmful to health.
To make matters worse, some of these products haven’t been recalled yet so you can still find them in stores. This puts consumers who unknowingly continue to use contaminated products at great risk of developing health complications like cancer and leukemia.
How Much Benzene is Harmful in Sunscreen?
The short answer is that no amount of benzene is safe for humans to consume – and these companies have no excuse for producing contaminated products.
Benzene is a natural byproduct of crude oil, gasoline, and petroleum and is widely used in the petrochemical and manufacturing industries. Benzene is recognized as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes benzene as a Class 1 solvent that shouldn’t be used in drug products or substances because of its “unacceptable toxicity.”
In fact, the harmful effects of benzene have been studied for over 120 years. Even as long ago as 1939, a study found that any exposure to benzene for any period of time is not safe.
Not only that but there are plenty of other sunscreen and sun aftercare products without benzene contamination. There’s no reason these products should have benzene in them.
In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers wear protective equipment if they expect they’ll get exposed to benzene at any higher concentration than 0.1 parts per million (ppm). This is much less than the 2ppm found in some of the contaminated sunscreen products.
The fact that benzene is in sunscreen products is even worse because of the way these products are absorbed into our bloodstream through our skin. In recent studies, the FDA has found that a large amount of the active ingredients in sunscreen get absorbed through the skin enough to be detected in the blood over 400 times the threshold for carcinogenicity. Benzene exposure can also happen if you breathe in the aerosol spray.
Dangerous chemicals like benzene can become concentrated in the body and the blood, where their effect can increase your risk of cancer exponentially as your exposure increases. Multiple studies have shown that chemicals in sunscreen appear in the blood at high levels.
In fact, sunscreen isn’t the first product to be contaminated with benzene – and it won’t be the last. Just before the sunscreen recall, some hand sanitizers on the market were also found to be contaminated with benzene. Many of these hand sanitizer products were also recalled.
What Kind of Cancer Can Benzene Cause?
Nothing about benzene is good for the human body, but it’s especially toxic in the bloodstream. As a result, the greatest risk of benzene exposure is blood cell cancers like leukemia.
If you’ve had any benzene exposure, you could increase your risk of developing:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
- Multiple Myeloma
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Aplastic Anemia
These are all serious, life-altering diseases that require intensive treatment and care, with high rates of mortality. Symptoms of leukemia and related conditions include:
- Anemia (low blood cell count) and low platelet count
- Fatigue, fevers, chills, night sweats, or nosebleeds
- Swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged liver or spleen
- Black, blue, purple, red, or brown spots on the skin (petechiae)
- Frequent and severe infections
- Unintentional weight loss
- Bone pain
If you’ve been experiencing any symptoms of leukemia, it’s important that you see a doctor right away. You may need chemotherapy, radiation therapy, transfusions, surgery, and other treatments. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can get the medical care you need.
What If You Were Diagnosed with Leukemia After Using Cancerous Sunscreen?
If you’ve received a diagnosis of cancer or leukemia after using benzene-contaminated sunscreen or aftercare lotion, you have every right to feel betrayed and angry.
Manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are safe for consumers. By putting benzene-contaminated products on the market and allowing you to become unknowingly exposed, manufacturers have failed their legal responsibility to you.
Hopefully, you’re able to get the medical care you need after your leukemia diagnosis. But even if you’re insured, medical bills and co-pays can add up quickly. If you’re sick, you may become unable to work or you may have to take disability leave from your job. The last thing you need is to lose your source of income while you’re trying to care for your health.
A legal action such as a personal injury lawsuit can help you hold manufacturers accountable for the harm they’ve caused with benzene-contaminated sunscreen.
What does it mean to hold manufacturers accountable?
Legally, if you get injured because of someone else’s actions, it’s on that person to “make you whole” as if your injuries never happened. Unfortunately, many injuries cannot simply be undone. Cancers like leukemia can have dire circumstances for patients. As a result, the law uses financial compensation to lessen the effect of the injury on your life. After all, you shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of a corporation that needed better quality control.
When you hold a manufacturer accountable, they can be ordered to pay for all of the pain, loss, and suffering you experienced as a result of their negligence. This could include:
- Any medical bills related to your diagnosis, past or future
- The cost of any long-term supportive care you or your family member may need
- Any wages you’ve given up because you were too sick to work
- Your future wages and earning potential if you become permanently unable to work
- Any pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life you experience
In some cases, you may even be able to get punitive damages, which punish manufacturers for acting in a way that recklessly or knowingly put other people’s lives in danger. For example, you could get punitive damages if you found evidence that manufacturers knew about the benzene contamination, refused to do anything about it, or tried to cover up the facts.
Can You File a Neutrogena Sunscreen Lawsuit?
If you have a legal claim against the makers of benzene-contaminated sunscreen, make sure you record all the evidence you can find to back up your case. Keep any of the sunscreen bottles or receipts that you still have in your possession. Put together a file of your medical diagnosis and any doctor’s notes detailing your condition.
A personal injury lawsuit is different than a class-action lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit can get you back the money you paid for a defective product. In a class action, your case combines with the cases of millions of other consumers who also bought the tainted products. Once the case settles or resolves, you and the rest of the “class members” will get a portion of the final payout.
Personal injury lawsuits, however, are personal – if you were diagnosed with cancer or leukemia after using these defective products, you’ve lost way more than what you originally paid for the sunscreen. That means you deserve to be compensated more for your injuries. Instead of lumping up your case with millions of other consumers in a class action, you can hold the manufacturers responsible for the unique injuries that you’ve suffered.
The only way to know if you actually have a case against the makers of benzene-tainted sunscreen is to talk to a personal injury attorney who has experience handling these types of high-profile national products liability cases.
At Harlan Law, we take these types of cases on a contingency fee basis because we don’t want our clients to worry about whether they can afford a lawyer or not. With a contingency fee, you don’t pay us a dime until we recover compensation for you. When we take your case, we are invested in your success and your health. We advocate for you to get the medical treatment you need to get better – and we fight to make sure the people responsible foot the bill.
It’s enough stress to navigate the healthcare system after a cancer diagnosis. If it’s a loved one’s diagnosis, it can be difficult to watch them suffer. To get an advocate on your side, call our personal injury law offices now at (619) 870-0802 or use our online form.