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Neutrogena aerosol sunscreens recalled due to elevated levels of benzene

TORONTO — Johnson & Johnson is recalling several​ aerosol sunscreens, including Neutrogena Beach Defense and Ultra Sheer sunscreens for adults and children, after the company detected elevated levels of benzene.

According to an advisory released by Health Canada on Saturday, the contamination was first identified by Valisure, an independent U.S. quality assurance company.

Testing revealed elevated levels of benzene in multiple sunscreen and after-sun products produced by Johnson & Johnson in the U.S. Since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a recall of five of the company’s products.

Benzene is a chemical that can be absorbed, to varying degrees, by inhalation, through the skin, and orally.

The advisory issued by Health Canada includes seven Neutrogena Beach Defense and Ultra Sheer sunscreen products. A complete list of the affected products can be found on Health Canada’s website.

Health Canada says immediate signs of exposure can include drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat and headaches. Repeat or long-term exposure to the substance may also lead to serious health issues like cancer, anemia, and bone marrow failure.

“The safety of health products that Canadians rely on is a priority for Health Canada,” the advisory notes. “Health Canada’s assessment is ongoing. This includes determining if sunscreens and other types of products (i.e. after-sun products) sold by other companies may be affected in Canada, and evaluating the issue to identify potential causes and risk mitigation measures.”

Despite the recall of some products, the agency continues to emphasise how important it is that people continue to use sunscreen to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation that can cause cancer and other skin and health issues.

“Health Canada recommends broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that provides protection from both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays) with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn and to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer,” the agency advised. “Anyone with a known history of severe reactions to sunlight should stay out of the sun as much as possible and always use sunscreen and other sun-protective measures.”

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