Why is Johnson & Johnson recalling Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreens?

Johnson & Johnson is recalling five of its sunscreen products, after low levels of benzene were found in them.

On Wednesday, 14 July 2021, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) issued a voluntary recall of five Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen lines in the United States (US), after it reportedly found low levels of benzene in the products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Benzene is a highly flammable chemical that is present throughout the environment. Not only can the chemical cause cancer, but it can also reportedly damage the immune system and prevent the cells from functioning properly.

The company has reportedly issued a warning to customers against using aerosol sprays, such as Neutrogena Beach Defense, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer, Neutrogena Invisible Daily, Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport, as well as Aveeno Protect and Refresh.

In the statement recalling the products, J&J said that all consumers who purchased any of these products should throw them away. The company added that benzene is a carcinogen that could potentially cause cancer, depending on the level and extent of the exposure. The company reportedly said it would be providing customers with a refund.

Furthermore, according to the multinational corporation, benzene is not an ingredient in any of its products, and it is subsequently investigating what might have caused its presence. J&J reportedly added that the levels of benzene that were present in their tests would not be expected to cause harmful health consequences, and it is merely recalling the products out of caution.

Lastly, this recall is reportedly not the first of its kind for a pharmaceutical company. In May 2021, Valisure, a Connecticut-based online pharmacy and laboratory, found that dozens of its popular sunscreen products had been polluted with benzene. The company stated that it tested and analysed 294 batches from 69 different companies, and found that 78 of its sunscreen and after-sun products had been contaminated with the chemical.