Johnson & Johnson recently announced the voluntary recall of a number of its aerosol-based sunscreens as a result of ongoing concerns over benzene contamination of the products. The sunscreens in question are all aerosols and fall within the corporation’s Neutrogena and Aveeno product lines.
Benzene is a known human carcinogen, or a product that is known to cause cancer. And, while exposure to benzene on a daily basis is virtually unavoidable, there are limits to that exposure that can be instituted to mitigate such a risk. Spraying it all over one’s skin in an attempt to stave off skin cancer is not one of those ways.
The Neutrogena and Aveeno benzene recalls are just the latest in a long line of brands of sun care products affected by the discovery of benzene by online pharmacy Valisure. The pharmacy, when publicizing the results of its testing, was keen to note that benzene is not an ingredient in any form of sunscreen and surmised that the contamination had to have happened as a result of a fault within the products’ manufacturing processes.
There are currently 78 brands of sunscreen implicated in the contamination problem and they range from normal adult use products to child and infant skin care. And as the FDA chugs along at its normal glacial pace toward some sort of regulatory action to deal with the issue and protect the American people, Valisure has publicly called for and petitioned the agency to recall the products and take away their potential to harm. The pharmacy, which has been running circles around the FDA in terms of its responses to potential public harms on a number of recent issues, says that “it is critical that regulatory agencies address benzene contamination in sunscreens, and all topical medications at the manufacturing and final product level, so that all individuals feel safe using sunscreen products.”
Adam Friedman, MD, professor and chief of dermatology at Washington D.C.’s George Washington University concurs. “This isn’t a sunscreen issue, it’s a manufacturing issue,” he says. “We don’t want those things to be blurred.”