Johnson & Johnson Sunscreen Recall: Benzene Found in Sunscreen Products
January 4, 2023 | Product liability
Nearly a year after first announcing a recall of certain sunscreen products over contamination fears, Johnson & Johnson agreed earlier this year to a $1.75 million settlement over the defective sunscreen. Individuals who purchased affected sunscreen products between 2015 and 2022 may be eligible to take part in the settlement.
Background to Sunscreen Recall and Investigation
On July 14, 2021, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall for several of its aerosol sunscreens sold to consumers under the Neutrogena and Aveeno brands. The recall was prompted by the detection of benzene, a carcinogen, in samples of the affected products.
The products that were subject to the voluntary recall included the following:
- Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena® Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena® Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen
- Neutrogena® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen
- Aveeno® Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen
The list of products included in the eventual settlement also included:
- Neutrogena® Sheer® Zinc Dry-Touch face sunscreen lotion
- Neutrogena® Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch water-resistant sunscreen lotion
- Aveeno® Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin sunscreen lotion
A company may issue a voluntary recall of its products at any time to remove a potentially harmful product from the marketplace, and they are distinguishable from mandatory recalls that are ordered by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dangers of Benzene Exposure
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), benzene is one of the 20 most commonly used chemicals in the United States. It is used in consumer products like plastics, dyes, and, most pertinently, products like sunscreens.
The ACS further indicates that individuals are typically exposed to benzene in the workplace, in the environment, and through consumer products, with various studies suggesting benzene may lead to the development of leukemia and certain other blood cancers.
Johnson & Johnson Faces Lawsuits and Reaches Settlement
After the recall announcement, consumers expressed their shock and outrage over unknowingly exposing themselves to benzene by using Johnson & Johnson’s products. The company offered to issue refunds to customers who had purchased the affected products, but this did not placate all consumers.
Various lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson, which combined into a class action lawsuit. These lawsuits alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew — or should have known — of the presence of benzene in its products and that it had a legal obligation to warn consumers. As it failed to do so, these lawsuits allege, the company should be liable for damages.
Over the summer of 2022, Johnson & Johnson and the class action plaintiffs reached a settlement, and a hearing was scheduled in August 2022 to confirm the terms of the settlement agreement, some of which included:
- Johnson & Johnson admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement
- Every household that purchased any of the affected products could submit a claim and receive up to two product vouchers worth up to $10.58 each
- Johnson & Johnson would begin to allow third-party testing of its products to help ensure no further contamination of its products
Separately, a plaintiff in Georgia has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that exposure to benzene in its sunscreen products contributed to a diagnosis of skin cancer. Like previous lawsuits, this plaintiff alleges the company should have known its products contained benzene and warned consumers accordingly.
Steps Available to Affected Consumers
If you purchased any of the affected products listed above, you might have limited time to file a product liability claim under the terms of the settlement. If you used these products and have recently been given a cancer diagnosis, you may have additional legal rights available to you.
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