Benzene recall alert

recall regulatory

The recall of a spray sunscreen shows Australian regulations work, says one expert

The TGA has announced that Johnson & Johnson Pacific is recalling all batches of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+ (aerosol sunscreen), AUST L 202301, because benzene has been detected in some batches supplied in Australia.

All batches with an expiry date of 30th August 2023 or earlier should not be used due to possible health risks linked to benzene, the TGA advises.

“Benzene is classified as a human carcinogen, a substance that could potentially cause cancer depending on the level and extent of exposure,” says the TGA.

“It is not an ingredient in this product but is sometimes used in medicine manufacturing processes.

“The TGA has limits on these types of solvents and benzene must be below a concentration of 2 parts per million (ppm) in medicines. This includes sunscreen products that are listed medicines in Australia.

“Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc product testing detected benzene at concentrations less than 3 ppm in two of the 17 batches supplied in Australia.

Can of sunscreen spray Neutrogena
The affected Neutrogena product. Image: TGA

“Exposure to benzene in this sunscreen product, at the levels detected, would not be expected to cause serious adverse health effects, but to reduce the risk to consumers, Johnson & Johnson Pacific Pty Ltd is recalling all batches of the affected product supplied within Australia.”

Customers are advised to discard the products and visit for a refund.

Professor Oliver Jones from the School of Science at RMIT University commented that while headlines about the recall may be frightening, “in my view it actually shows Australian regulations are working; a potential issue has been detected and corrective action taken quickly”.

“It might also help to keep in mind that parts per million (ppm) is an expression of concentration, not an absolute amount,” he said.

“Two parts per million (2 ppm) means that for every million parts of a mixture (in this case the sunscreen spray) as a whole, there are two parts of the substance being measured (in this case benzene).

“Put another way, 1ppm is also roughly equivalent to one minute out of two years. In this case the level of benzene detected was between two and three ppm when it should be less than two ppm. So a very tiny difference.

People should not worry even if they have used the affected product. Only two out of 17 batches were affected so the chances of even being exposed are very low in the first place.

“Benzene evaporates into the air very quickly and 3ppm for a short period of time is not enough to cause serious effects.”

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