Earlier this year, testing on a number of popular sunscreen products revealed the presence of benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to multiple types of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and other health issues.
Manufacturers such as Coppertone and Johnson & Johnson have issued voluntary recalls on a number of sunscreen products due to concerns about benzene. If your sunscreen is recalled or is known to contain unsafe levels of benzene, what should you do?
The first step is to find out which sunscreens may be dangerous. Second, you should stop using the affected product and turn to a safer alternative. Third, contrary to recall instructions, you should keep the product in your possession but put it in a safe place where no one can access it.
Finally, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The product liability lawyers at the Whitley Law Firm can inspect the sunscreen for contaminants and determine if you have a case.
How Much Benzene Is in Sunscreen?
Benzene is not an ingredient in sunscreen. Rather, the current risk appears to be posed by contamination during manufacturing.
The FDA limits benzene concentration to 2 parts per million (ppm) in drug products where use of the chemical is unavoidable to create a product “with a significant therapeutic advance.” According to laboratory testing by Valisure – the company that detected elevated levels of benzene in sunscreen – over one-quarter of the sunscreen products tested contained triple the level of benzene concentration considered safe. Other sunscreens tested, meanwhile, showed no traces of benzene.
No “significant therapeutic advance” is associated with the sunscreens containing benzene. Based on these findings, Valisure concluded that “any significant detection of benzene [in sunscreens] should be deemed unacceptable.”
Is Benzene Bad for Skin?
Exposure to small amounts of benzene can result in irritation and inflammation of the skin. However, the bigger concern with sunscreens containing benzene is absorption of the chemical through the skin.
Benzene is a toxic substance. When it enters the bloodstream, benzene molecules can damage the body’s bone marrow. This can result in anemia (inadequate production of healthy red blood cells), decreased immune response, and elevated risk for certain cancers.
Skin absorption tends to be a less common risk factor for exposure to benzene than inhalation or ingestion. However, repeat exposure to the skin – such as by applying a sunscreen containing benzene – increases the presence of toxic chemicals that can make you sick and cause cancer.
Is Sunscreen Safe?
Doctors and other health experts have gone to great lengths to reassure the public that not all sunscreens put consumers at risk for exposure to benzene. The important thing is to stop using sunscreens that may be contaminated, not to stop using sunscreens altogether.
Regularly applying sunscreen is essential for protecting the skin from ultraviolet light. Short-term, this reduces your risk for painful sunburns. Long-term, it decreases the risk of skin cancer.
All told, the risk of benzene exposure via sunscreen products is fairly low. Only 27% of the tested products contained trace amounts of benzene, while benzene was undetectable in other product batches.
Nonetheless, the lab results encompass 78 different sunscreen lotions and sprays, as well as skincare products for sun exposure. Given the risks presented by benzene, the concern among consumers is understandable.
If you are concerned about benzene in your sunscreen, check the brand name, product code, lot number, and expiration date on the packaging. If the information matches a manufacturer recall or is listed among the products that contain benzene, you should stop using the sunscreen immediately.
You should still protect yourself from the sun. A dermatologist at Yale Medicine suggests that consumers who are concerned about benzene and other chemicals in sunscreen should opt for a mineral sunblock. Mineral sunscreens are not absorbed into the skin, preventing the risk of potentially harmful exposure.
Can I Sue If My Sunscreen Contains Benzene?
You may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer of a contaminated sunscreen if you or a loved one suffers adverse health effects connected to benzene exposure. Conditions associated with long-term exposure to benzene include:
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Chronic myeloid leukemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Dysplasia of the bone marrow (also known as myelodysplastic syndromes)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)
- Aplastic anemia
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Compromised immune system
Cancer and other chronic illnesses can lead to substantial medical bills, loss of income, and other expenses, not to mention the pain and suffering endured by patients and their families. The maker of a sunscreen contaminated with benzene may be liable for these and other damages.
If a member of your family died as a result of benzene exposure, you and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. A knowledgeable lawyer can review medical records and other evidence to show that toxic exposure was a factor in your relative’s passing and prove that the manufacturer is liable.
Product liability claims are challenging. When questions of toxic exposure arise, companies often present volumes of evidence and hire experts to assert that their products are safe and the serious illnesses suffered by consumers are the result of any number of environmental factors.
The Whitley Law Firm has the experience, knowledge, and resources to take on the challenges of complex litigation. We fully assess the evidence, identify all of the liable parties, and pursue fair compensation on your behalf.
Please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-9000 today if you or a member of your family suffered adverse effects from benzene in sunscreens. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help. We proudly serve Raleigh and all of the surrounding areas of North Carolina.