Five sunscreens will be recalled after their manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, detected low levels of a carcinogen called benzene in some samples of them, the company itself reported on Wednesday according to a statement published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA ) from the USA.
Benzene, a highly flammable chemical present in the environment in various forms, is classified as a human carcinogen, a substance that could potentially cause cancer, depending on the level and extent of the person’s exposure to it. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can also damage the immune system and prevent cells from working properly.
“According to the exposure model and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) framework, daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our tests would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.” , the company clarified in the statement and said that the withdrawal was “as a precaution”.
But a systematic review of the scientific studies done on benzene in 2010 warns that “there is possibly no safe level of exposure to benzene and that all exposures to it constitute a risk” that can be cumulative.
“Benzene causes mutations in DNA. It is a powerful carcinogen. Even a small dose can unleash a series of actions that trigger cancer years later (…) There is no safe level of exposure and that is especially true for children ”, once said to Bloomberg, Philip Landrigan, a Boston University researcher who has studied toxic chemicals and their effect on human health.
Johnson & Johnson asked customers to stop using the affected products, four from Neutrogena and one from Aveeno, all in spray. Those who have them in any of their sizes should stop using them immediately and can request a refund by calling 1-800-458-1673.
- NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense®, protector solar en aerosol
- NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport, protector solar en aerosol
- NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily ™, protector solar en aerosol de defensa
- NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer®, protector solar en aerosol
- AVEENO® Protect + Refresh, protector solar en aerosol
The lab clarified that benzene is not an ingredient in any of your sunscreens, and that they were investigating the cause of its presence in the aforementioned products, all packaged in aerosol cans and distributed throughout the country.
The FDA does not allow the intentional production or inclusion of benzene in drugs or the products it regulates, but it does establish a maximum range in which it may be present if it is impossible to prevent it. because it is generated naturally during the manufacturing process of a product “with significant therapeutic advances”: 2 parts per million.
A carcinogen that is everywhere
Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor that is formed from both natural processes and human activities. It ranks 20th on the list of the highest-volume-produced chemicals in the United States. It is used to make plastics, resins, nylon, certain types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
Cigarette smoke, gasoline, glues, adhesives, paints, and various cleaning products contain traces of benzene. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans.
Long-term exposure to benzene causes changes in the bone marrow and can decrease the number of red blood cells. They also trigger bleeding and affect the immune system, increasing the likelihood of infection.
Other protectors in focus
A recent analysis by the independent laboratory Valisure found high levels of benzene in other popular sunscreen brands.
Of the 300 creams and sprays sun protection and after-sun care they evaluated, 78 (almost 30%) -including presentations from popular brands such as Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Sun Bum and CVS among others- they had detectable levels of benzene, and many well above those allowed by the FDA.
Among those with the highest levels were Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+ and Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70. The full list is available on pages 12-15 of this link.
“The presence of this carcinogen in sunscreens widely recommended for the prevention of skin cancer and regularly used by adults and children in large quantities make these findings particularly alarming,” emphasizes the company in question in its petition public to the FDA, which has promised to review the matter.
Whether chemical sunscreens are absorbed through the skin in higher than expected levelsAs the FDA itself recently found, it makes the detection of high levels of benzene in some of them even more concerning.
Valisure is the same independent laboratory that in 2018 discovered the presence of the carcinogen NDMA in drugs like Zantac that eventually ended up being withdrawn from the market when the FDA validated those findings.
Experts insist that people should not stop using sunscreen, which is essential to prevent skin cancer. They reiterate that there are many brands and products in which no traces of this dangerous compound have been detected.
In its statement, Johnson & Johnson echoes this message and emphasizes the importance of using sunscreen to protect yourself from sun exposure in these summer months. “The incidence of melanoma continues to rise around the world and most cases are caused by excessive sun exposure. It is important that people everywhere continue to take the proper sun protection measures, including continued use of sun blockers. alternatives, “added Johnson & Johnson.