This month, Johnson & Johnson recalled five aerosol sunscreens after they were found to contain benzene, a chemical that can cause cancer with repeated exposure. Now for some background information on that. The testing was conducted by an independent testing facility, called Valisure. They tested 294 batches from 69 brands of sunscreens and after-sun care products. They reported their findings in a letter to the FDA dated May 24, 2021, and then asked the FDA to recall 40 batches of products that contained benzene at levels above 0.1 ppm. Valisure also identified an additional 38 batches of products with benzene levels detectable at <0.1 ppm. Although they did not ask the FDA to recall these products, they still make the case that any level of benzene is not safe.
It should be noted that in all cases, the benzene is present as a contaminant. It is not an intentional component of their formulations, and you won’t find benzene listed in their ingredients. Johnson & Johnson said they are investigating into the cause of the contamination, but it seems likely that one of their raw materials was contaminated with benzene.
Even though the letter from Valisure was sent on May 24, it wasn’t until July 14, 2021 that Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled five of their sunscreens. Then they tried to downplay it by saying that adverse consequences are not expected as long as you don’t inhale, ingest, or get it on your skin. I found that an interesting comment since sunscreen is supposed to go on your skin!
As a consumer, I’m shocked that it took almost two months for Johnson & Johnson to issue a recall. I’m also outraged that the FDA did absolutely nothing. They did not force any of the companies into a recall, as was suggested by Valisure. So what about the remaining products? Apparently they are still on the market and consumers may be unknowingly buying sunscreens that contain benzene. This is just unacceptable practice to me, and I am taking note of the companies that have done nothing. I will not be buying their products in the future. However, please don’t stop using sunscreen altogether! Refer to Tables 2, 3, and 4 in the Valisure letter to find the products to avoid.
So, what is the purpose of my rant? It’s actually two-fold. Since we are all consumers, I would suggest that you pay attention to recalls like this, including the underlying data. I can help you purchase products that are all-natural, without toxins, and unlikely to have contamination issues like this. Join my Facebook group, Denise’s Healthy Hacks at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/421646265683470. When you know better, you do better.
Secondly, If you work for a manufacturing company, you need to be aware of your supply chain. You should already fully know the compositions of your raw materials, and if you purchase the same raw material from different companies or even different locations, you need to know how those compositions may vary. I’ve discussed this topic before in my September 2020 Blog. Even though you may not be supplying into the sunscreen or other FDA market, you should understand how contaminants may alter the quality of your product. You will also want to have a plan in place to conduct a recall if necessary. Contact us at Strategic Realm Consulting for assistance with your compositions or any product stewardship services, such as product recall plans.