Recall: Neutrogena Beach Defense & Ultra Sheer Sunscreens Recalled Due to Elevated Benzene Levels

Johnson & Johnson Inc. is recalling all lots of Neutrogena Beach Defense and Ultra Sheer children and adult sunscreens, in aerosol spray format, after testing conducted by the company detected elevated levels of benzene. Frequent and long-term exposure (e.g., through the skin and by inhalation) to elevated levels of benzene may pose serious health risks.

Humans are exposed to benzene in the air (e.g., by inhaling car exhaust, second-hand tobacco smoke and industrial emissions). We can also be exposed by swallowing benzene or absorbing it through the skin (e.g., through contact with contaminated water). Immediate signs of exposure to elevated levels of benzene include drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and headaches. While there is no safe level of benzene, long-term (over a year or more) and repeated exposure to elevated levels of benzene may lead to serious health effects, including various forms of cancer such as leukemia, anemia (low red blood cells), and bone marrow failure.

The potential issue was identified by testing conducted by Valisure (an independent U.S. quality assurance company) that detected elevated levels of benzene in several sunscreen and after-sun products in the U.S., including Johnson & Johnson Inc. products. Health Canada is aware that recalls are taking place in the U.S. for the same reason.

The safety of health products that Canadians rely on is a priority for Health Canada. Of the products tested by Valisure, Health Canada has followed up with companies on the higher-risk products (2 parts per million (ppm) benzene and above) that are also authorized in Canada. Health Canada’s assessment is ongoing. This includes determining if sunscreens and other types of products (i.e. after-sun products) sold by other companies may be affected in Canada, and evaluating the issue to identify potential causes and risk mitigation measures.

Health Canada emphasises that it is important that people continue to use sunscreen to protect themselves from sun damage. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause cancer and other skin effects.

Health Canada recommends broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that provides protection from both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays) with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn and to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. Anyone with a known history of severe reactions to sunlight should stay out of the sun as much as possible and always use sunscreen and other sun-protective measures.

What you should do?

Health Canada advises consumers, including parents and caregivers to:

  • Stop using the recalled products. Consult a health care professional if you have used any of these products and have health concerns.
  • Continue using other sunscreen as directed on the product label.
  • Contact Johnson & Johnson Inc. by calling, toll-free, 1-800-458-1673, if you have questions about the recall.
  • Report any health product-related side effects or complaints to Health Canada.

Health Canada strongly encourages the use of sunscreens to protect against harmful UV radiation and provides general sun safety tips as well as safety tips for parents.

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