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What are the Dangers of Benzene-Contaminated Sunscreen?

Sunscreen Recall

When a company makes a product and sells it to consumers, it must meet certain standards. Those standards give consumers peace of mind that the product they are using will not cause them harm.

Unfortunately, some products do not meet these rigorous standards and may cause consumers more harm than good. If a consumer has recently been diagnosed with cancer, they may be entitled to compensation if they used sunscreen that contained benzene. Sunscreen that contains benzene may cause serious health issues, including several types of cancer.

Benzene in Sunscreen

Benzene is a toxic chemical that is known to cause cancer in people who are exposed to it. Benzene is often used in human-made materials such as plastics and lubricants. It is a colorless and flammable chemical and is among the 20 most widely used in the United States. In early 2021, an independent laboratory found high levels of benzene in several sunscreen products, some containing as much as three times the recommended level approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Brands Containing Benzene

Benzene was found in many different sunscreen brands. These include:

  • Aveeno
  • Babyganics
  • Banana Boat
  • CVS Health
  • EltaMD
  • Equate
  • Ethical Zinc
  • Fruit of the Earth
  • LaRoche-Posay
  • Live Better by CVS Health
  • Max Block
  • Neutrogena
  • Raw Elements
  • Sun Burn
  • TopCare Everyday
  • Walgreens

Several consumer advocate groups, including the laboratory that conducted the benzene test, have urged the FDA to issue a mandatory recall because of the higher than acceptable benzene levels found in these products. At present, the FDA has given no recall notice.

Health Risks

Like nicotine in cigarettes, benzene is a known carcinogen that can cause cancer in humans. In fact, some studies suggest that there is no safe level of human exposure to benzene. The FDA has substantiated independent laboratory studies and found that chemicals in sunscreen and after-sun care products enter the human bloodstream.

Benzene is known to cause cancer. It is unclear how much benzene a person needs to be exposed to increase their risk of cancer. But the FDA is clear that any exposure is simply too much. When companies use benzene in their products, they may be acting negligently and be liable for any resulting injuries caused to consumers, including cancer.

Benzene Exposure and Symptoms

Benzene exposure can occur in several ways. These include:

  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion
  • Eye contact
  • Absorption through the skin

The last point is the most common way people who use sunscreen get exposed to benzene. A person will know that they have been exposed to benzene when they notice several types of symptoms, both short-term and long-term. Common symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions

When benzene exposure occurs, even in small doses, it can also cause numerous kinds of cancer. Research has found that the link between benzene and certain types of cancer is strong. Especially for leukemia, the link to benzene is significant.

Some types of cancer caused by benzene include:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

People who use sunscreen with benzene can develop these types of cancer. So too can workers who make the sunscreen and after-sun care products. These workers are exposed for long periods to benzene and can develop cancer through their work.

Legal Claims

Because the independent laboratory analysis found benzene in only a portion of the sunscreen tested, it is clear that benzene is not required by these companies to produce their sunscreen. As a result, any significant amount of benzene in their products is avoidable and unacceptable to be sold to consumers.

For a person to be eligible for a lawsuit against a sunscreen manufacturer who uses benzene in their products, they should speak with a lawyer experienced in products liability who can review their specific details and determine whether they have a valid claim. In general, however, consumers need to meet certain criteria.

The consumer must have used one of the following products:

  • Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Weightless, SPF 100+
  • Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Weightless, SPF 70
  • Sun Burn Cool Down Gel
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Spray, SPF 100
  • CVS Health After-Sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Body Spray, SPF 50
  • Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Body Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 60+
  • Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel

Consumers then must have been diagnosed with one of the following health conditions:

  • Acute myeloid Leukemia
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Aplastic anemia

If a consumer has been diagnosed with any of the above conditions, they will face serious medical health concerns and astronomical medical bills to help fight their cancer. But proving a products liability claim is no easy feat.

Proving a Products Liability Case

To prove that a company was negligent in making and selling their sunscreen product, a consumer will need to prove four specific elements of products liability:

  • A person has suffered actual property loss, personal injury, or death. The sunscreen product must have been the direct cause of the injury, most likely cancer, or the death caused to a consumer. Proving this will require the use of medical experts and expert testimony to show the connection between the consumer’s injury or death and the sunscreen product they used.
  • The sunscreen was defective. Although this step might seem easier to prove, it is still difficult because experts will need to testify that the product contained benzene. Without this testimony, it can be challenging to prove that the sunscreen used was defective.
  • There is a connection between the product defect and the injury caused. With the evidence provided in the first two steps, a products liability lawyer will then attempt to show the connection between the defective product and the injury caused to the consumer.
  • The product was used as intended. The final step to proving a products liability claim is that the consumer used the product as it was intended. For sunscreen, that would mean a consumer used the sunscreen and applied it to their skin as the manufacturer intended. If the sunscreen was used in a different way, that might make a consumer’s claim ineligible.

Collecting Compensation

If a consumer can prove the above elements, they may be able to collect compensation from the sunscreen manufacturer. A lawyer may try to get the consumer compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning potential
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Present and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs

Cancer is a serious medical condition that can alter a person’s life forever. It can also cause astronomical medical expenses. Even the most financially well-off individuals can have difficulty paying these massive medical bills.

For people who have been diagnosed with cancer, a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from their mind. But if they ignore their legal options, that could place them into extreme financial hardship and take their focus away from their health and recovery process. Beginning this process by speaking with a lawyer is vital to a person’s recovery.

Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Victims Recover

When you buy a product, you expect it to work as advertised and not cause you any pain. Unfortunately, that can happen. But products liability is a complex area of the law that requires a keen eye and legal experience to help you recover compensation. The Philadelphia products liability lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC will fight to help you recover the compensation you need to help you get better without worrying about how you cover your medical expenses. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients in Wilmington, Dover, Newark, and Middletown.