Sunscreen is routinely recommended by dermatologists for protection against sun exposure, which is a known and leading cause of skin cancer. When the products that are intended to protect us prove to be potentially dangerous, where are we to turn?
Valisure, a company that evaluates the chemical makeup of prescription drugs and consumer products to check for contaminants, submitted a Citizens Petition to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) following the revelation that certain popular sunscreen products have been contaminated with benzene, a cancer-causing substance.
Valisure’s investigation found that the following sunscreen products contained high levels of benzene:
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray SPF 100+ (2 lots) and SPF 70 (3 lots)
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-free Body Sunscreen Spray SPF 100 (3 lots)
- Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Body Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
- Neutrogena Beach Defense Spray Body Sunscreen SPF 50
- Sun Bum Cool Down Gel
- CVS Health After-sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray (2 lots)
- Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel
Testing of 217 additional sunscreen products did not yield any detection of benzene, demonstrating that the majority of sunscreen products are not contaminated.
Such a result begs the question of how Neutrogena and a handful of other companies were unaware that their products contained high levels of benzene?
What is Benzene and Why is it Dangerous?
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies benzene as a human carcinogen, meaning that benzene exposure can lead to cancer. Benzene is a heavily produced chemical in the United States, ranking in the top twenty chemicals for production volume.
Benzene is derived both naturally and as a result of human activities. For example, benzene is released naturally from forest fires, but can also be released from cigarette smoking. Benzene is in the air we breathe outdoors and even more so inside, something that may surprise many people (as benzene is found in household items and furniture finishes).
Extensive exposure to benzene can be extremely dangerous and is one reason why a crack down on the production and sale of sunscreens contaminated with benzene is so critical. Benzene can lead to cancer by causing cells to malfunction. Also, bone marrow may not produce enough red blood cells, leading to anemia.
Additionally, benzene can alter the immune system, leading to the loss of white blood cells. While many factors can lead to cancer, benzene exposure has proven to be dangerous, and cannot be ruled out as a cause of cancer in a person who has been exposed to the chemical.
Women May Be More Affected Than Men
Although both men and women wear sunscreen, women are more likely to purchase and use products that are marketed for use on the beach and to enhance tanning. While men tan as much as women do, the marketing for sunscreen products is typically geared towards women.
As such, many women have placed themselves at risk – through no fault of their own – by using a product that contains benzene, a dangerous cancer-causing substance. When everyday products like sunscreen and tanning products – frequently used by women (especially Neutrogena-branded products) – consumers who have been diagnosed with cancer after using the products deserve an answer from the manufacturers.
It’s Scary, But There are Options for Action
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and believe benzene exposure may be to blame, you should seek the guidance of a qualified lawyer who can fight for you both inside and outside the courtroom.
As an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer, I have witnessed just how devastating injuries can be, and when injuries are caused by the conduct of others, the party or parties at fault should be held accountable.
Stay safe out there,
Amber Gilormo, Esq.