Sunscreen products recalled after low levels of benzene detected

sun screen Photo by Lapina/Shutterstock

Last week, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall of several sunscreen products after internal testing identified low levels of the chemical compound benzene is some of its product samples.

In an advisory, Health Canada said that the healthcare company was recalling its Neutrogena Beach Defense Kids SPF 60 spray and all SPF versions of its Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist sunscreen. In the U.S., the company also recalled its Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen, Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense aerosol sunscreen, and Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen.

Photo Courtesy of

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling all lots of these specific aerosol sunscreen products,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “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. We are investigating the cause of this issue.”

A guide to buying, using, and storing sunscreen

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzene, a colourless or slightly yellow, highly flammable chemical with a sweet odour, is classified as a human carcinogen, meaning that if someone were exposed to a high rate of the chemical for a prolonged period of time, it could cause blood cancers, such as leukemia.

Benzene affects the ability of the body’s cells to function correctly by preventing bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells, changing blood levels of antibodies, and causing the loss of white blood cells.

Symptoms caused by exposure to high rates of benzene include dizziness, drowsiness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, and confusion.

The truth behind 10 sunscreen myths

Benzene is naturally produced by volcanoes and forest fires, but low levels can exist in the air, caused by tobacco smoke, gas stations, vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. The chemical is used to produce plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers, and some lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides, according to the CDC.

“Based on exposure modeling and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) framework, daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences,” Johnson & Johnson said.

Health Canada is advising consumers to stop using the recalled products and to contact a health care provider if they’re experiencing any health concerns that they believe were caused by one of the sunscreen products.

If consumers have any questions about the recall or want to request a refund, they can contact the Johnson & Johnson Customer Care Centre at 1-800-458-1673.

Featured Video