Benzene Exposure in Sunscreen: Know Your Rights

Here in Florida, the Sunshine State, people use a lot of sunscreen. We are told that it protects us from the harmful rays of the sun, but recent research suggests that the sunscreen itself might be harming us. This summer the FDA has announced that it will be closely studying the negative effects of sunscreen. In early 2021, an independent pharmaceutical testing lab, Valisure, tested 294 batches of sunscreen and other sun products and found that 78 of the batches contained benzene. The FDA is now investigating the presence of additional carcinogens.  

What is benzene?

Benzene is a known carcinogen that causes cells to malfunction in ways that can cause immunity issues, and long-term exposure to it has been linked to leukemia. It is produced naturally in crude oil and gasoline, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, and cigarette smoke. It is also used extensively in the manufacturing of plastics and synthetics and is found in lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Research into benzene several decades ago led the federal government in 1987 to limit benzene exposure in the workplace, adopting standards 50 times lower than previous standards. But some medical experts believe the exposure limits are still too high.

Benzene in sun products

What makes Valisure’s discovery so disturbing is that benzene shouldn’t be in sunscreen. It is not listed in the ingredients. It is likely that its presence indicates contamination during the manufacturing process, but that does not make the exposure any less serious. In fact, it indicates possible negligence on the part of the manufacturers in not taking every necessary precaution to prevent contamination.

It is unknown how long benzene has been in sunscreen or how much is absorbed into the skin. But a number of lawsuits are being filed and moving through the courts with regard to leukemia and other issues, presumably caused by long-term, repeated exposure to benzene in sunscreen. 

The manufacturers whose sun products have been found contaminated include (in alphabetical order):

  • Aveeno
  • BabyGanics
  • Banana Boat
  • Coppertone
  • CVS Health
  • EltaMD
  • Equate
  • Goodsense
  • La Roche-Posay
  • Max Block
  • Neutrogena
  • Raw Elements
  • Solimo
  • Sun Bum
  • SunBurnt
  • TopCare
  • Up & Up
  • Walgreens

These manufacturers’ products had benzene levels higher than what the FDA deems safe. Several others were just at the threshold. As of July 15, 2021, Johnson & Johnson has begun to recall some of its products, and other companies will likely follow suit. 

Know your rights

According to the American Cancer Society, benzene has been linked to leukemia and other cancers of the blood cells, such as non-Hodgkins lymphoma and multiple myeloma. A 2010 report by the World Health Organization stated that studies suggest additional effects, such as aplastic anemia and decreased immunity. 

If you have used one of the sun products found to be contaminated, using it extensively over an extended period of time, and you are now experiencing health problems linked to benzene, you may be able to sue for compensation. 

In any personal injury lawsuit, you must be able to demonstrate four things:

  1.       The person or business in question owed you a duty of care
  2.       The person or business was negligent in that duty
  3.       You suffered injury or damage that was caused by the breach of duty
  4.       The injury or damage can be demonstrated legally

This information about benzene in sunscreen has only just come to light in recent months and therefore much more needs to be discovered. What manufacturing processes were the companies using and how did benzene get into the final product? How much did they know and when? Contamination from manufacturing could be found by the courts to demonstrate negligence, especially if evidence comes forward that they were aware of or suspected contamination.

Connecting your illness to your use of the sunscreen may be a challenge, as there are many other sources of contamination. Attorneys for the big companies will try to blame the illnesses of plaintiffs on one of the many other possible causes in our environment, but I know the tactics and arguments that defense lawyers use and can prepare your case to be bulletproof or to create enough doubt that they would rather settle than go to court and risk losing. 

My goal as a personal injury lawyer in Florida is to help the people of Florida who have been injured by the carelessness of big business to get the compensation they deserve for their suffering. If you believe your use of sun products from these “trusted” manufacturers has led to your illness, contact me today at (954) 448-7288 to get your case started.

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