By Manas Mishra and Michael Erman
Johnson & Johnson is voluntarily recalling five Neutrogena and Aveeno brand aerosol sunscreen products in the United States after detecting a cancer-causing chemical in some samples.
The New Jersey-based company said on Wednesday that consumers should stop using the products and discard them after internal testing found low levels of benzene in some sprays.
The move comes months after online pharmacy Valisure filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saying it had found levels of benzene that were higher than recommended in several products that provide protection or relief against sunburns, including sprays and lotions.
CVS Health said on Thursday it had also halted sales of two of its sunburn healing products.
Benzene is classified as a substance that could potentially cause cancer depending on the level and extent of exposure.
J&J, whose shares were down 1%, said benzene is not an ingredient in its sunscreen products and it is investigating the cause of the contamination.
“Daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences,” the company said.
J&J’s recalled aerosol sunscreens are Neutrogena Beach Defense, Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport, Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer and Aveeno Protect + Refresh.
The company is in contact with other regulatory agencies over the recall, a J&J spokesperson said, adding that Wednesday’s announcement was specific to the voluntary action taken in the United States.
The recall is another blow for J&J, one of the world’s largest producers of consumer health products. The company is already facing a string of lawsuits related to its talc products, vaginal mesh implants and opioid painkillers.
Suncreens have drawn the FDA’s scrutiny in the past. The agency, which regulates them as cosmetic products, has proposed a rule that requires sunscreen makers to provide additional information on the active ingredients in their products.
“The FDA evaluates and assesses the information provided in these citizen petitions and, generally, initiates an independent testing and verification process,” FDA spokesperson Jeremy Kahn said.
Kahn said the FDA works with manufacturers in case its testing raises any safety concerns.
Valisure has filed several petitions with the FDA about the presence of carcinogens in drugs, including diabetes treatment metformin, which was subsequently recalled by the agency.