Coppertone has withdrawn five of its spray sunscreen products from the U.S. market after discovering they contained benzene, a known cancer-causing substance.
Owned by German firm Beiersdorf, the company said in a statement, exposure to benzene could “result in an increased risk of cancers, including leukemia, and blood cancers of the bone marrow and other blood disorders that can be life-threatening,” according to Fox News on Oct. 1.
In addition, benzene is highly flammable and is widely used in industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that it can damage the immune system and prevent cells from functioning properly.
Symptoms include dizziness, irregular heartbeat, convulsions, even death. It can affect a person if it is accidentally inhaled or ingested or even if it only stains the skin and clothing.
In particular, 12 batches of products manufactured during the first half of this year from the range of Pure & Simple SPF 50, Pure & Simple Kids SPF 50, Pure & Simple Baby SPF 50, Sport Mineral SPF 50, and Coppertone Sport Spray SPF 50 in travel size, were reported.
Consumers were advised to stop using the affected products manufactured between Jan. 10 and June 15, 2021.
In July, the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson announced that it was withdrawing five of its six Neutrogena and Aveeno spray sunscreens from the U.S. market because it found the same carcinogenic chemical in them.
The implications of benzene in these personal care products could be even more serious and widespread from a report by Connecticut-based Valisure Laboratory, which discovered it in dozens of popular sunscreen products.
Valisure tested and analyzed 294 unique batches from 69 different companies and found that 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products contained this chemical.
This laboratory asked the FDA to recall 40 sunscreen and after-sun products containing elevated levels of benzene. According to USA Today, the brands include Neutrogena, Sun Bum, CVS Health, and Fruit of the Earth.
In addition, the nonprofit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL), along with other researchers, also petitioned the FDA to recall more sunscreens after finding another possible carcinogen, octocrylene.
In their petition, the researchers noted that octocrylene is found in more than 2,300 sun protection factor (SPF) products. One of the touted benefits of octocrylene is its ability to absorb U.V. radiation and stabilize avobenzone, another chemical in sunscreen.
“Unfortunately, these benefits appear to be outweighed by the risks associated with its own instability and decomposition to the carcinogen benzophenone,” they wrote.
Companies such as Neutrogena, Coppertone, and Supergoop include octocrylene in their sunscreen products.
The use of carcinogenic substances in products that can come into contact with people has posed a threat to users, and some companies have had to pay large amounts of money in compensation.
One of them is Johnson & Johnson, which in June agreed to pay more than $100 million to settle more than 1,000 lawsuits that blame it for producing a baby powder that has repeatedly caused cancer.
This would be the first set of settlements resolved after four years of litigation. Thousands of lawsuits remain to be settled. More than 20,000 lawsuits remain from those alleging that its talcum powder products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen.