The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson announced a recall of five of its six Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreens from the U.S. market after finding the carcinogenic chemical benzene in them.

J&J warned its consumers to stop using them and to discard those they have. It also notified distributors and retailers to no longer sell them and to remove stock from shelves while it proceeds to pick them up, according to The Wall Street Journal on July 15.

The alarm about the contamination was raised by the pharmacy, Valisure LLC, which petitioned the FDA to recall the products after finding high levels of benzene in 24 sunscreens and other sunscreen products, including those from J&J. 

David Light, CEO of Valisure based in New Haven, Connecticut, said, “It appears Johnson & Johnson’s internal testing confirms Valisure’s concerns over benzene contamination in several sunscreen products.” 

The U.S. multinational confirmed that their products were contaminated with benzene, a substance it does not use in the manufacture of the products, and that it will collect them as a precautionary measure, as they did not pose a health hazard. 

They specified that the contaminated products are: Neutrogena Beach Defense, Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport, Neutrogena Invisible Daily, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer and Aveeno Protect + Refresh sunscreens.

Benzene can cause cancer after people are exposed to it intensely. It can also cause dizziness, confusion and rapid or irregular heartbeat.

For decades, the company has been paying billions of dollars in compensation for lawsuits filed by consumers whose health has been seriously affected. 

Products such as baby powders, vaginal mesh implants and opioid painkillers have been the cause of the lawsuits. 

“Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the company’s appeal seeking to overturn a verdict ordering it to pay $2.1 billion to women who said its iconic talcum powder products contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer,” recalled author Rachel Sharp. 

For their part, social media users expressed concern and outrage with the J&J case, especially since their failures keep repeating themselves. 

“This happens all too often. In this day and age, how is it possible that you don’t know what chemicals are being put in your product that cause cancer?” wrote Twitter user @tonylats1.

Likewise, netizen @Scherlie_ goes further, complaining why companies that commit misdemeanors of this kind are not penalized more rigorously. 

“Right now, there are black men serving life in prison for a plant that is now legal in most states. How is it that J&J keeps failing us on countless bases and they get a pat on the back for playing with our lives?”

Moreover, Jacqueline Smith, @scholar812, is appalled because she has frequently used these products and survived skin cancer. 

“As a melanoma survivor I’ve used Neutrogena sunscreen, I’m horrified. I literally spray it on daily.”