Neutrogena products
© AP
Neutrogena products with benzene off the shelves
Johnson & Johnson has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit after the pharmaceutical giant announced Wednesday that it was recalling five of its spray sunscreens due to the presence of a cancer-causing chemical in some samples.

The lawsuit, filed by Johanna Dominguez and Sharron Meijer in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks an injunction and damages on behalf of consumers who purchased the affected products.

The affected products include the Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen and four Neutrogena sunscreens: Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen, CoolDry Sport aerosol sunscreen, Invisible Daily Defense aerosol sunscreen and UltraSheer aerosol sunscreen.

The recalled products were named in a May report by Valisure, an independent testing lab in New Haven, Connecticut, for having high levels of benzene in at least some batches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says benzene can cause leukemia or other cancers after long-term exposure to high levels.

Product-safety trial lawyer Andy Birchfield of the Beasley Allen law firm, which is representing the plaintiffs in the suits said:
"It should not have taken the publication of a third party's tests to bring this critically important information to the public, and J&J's response so far is not enough. We will find out how long J&J knew about these concerns and why it took so long to take action."
A spokesperson for the company reiterated that the recall is voluntary.
"When the industry was alerted to this matter, we immediately began a comprehensive end-to-end investigation of our manufacturing process and raw materials, including internal testing and a thorough data review. We also conducted a robust health and safety assessment. The results informed our decision, which we proactively brought to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"While the use of these products would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences, we are asking consumers to stop using them. We believe this is the right decision to ensure consumers are confident in using sunscreen products."
J&J said in its announcement of the recall that benzene is not an ingredient of its products.
"Daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling all lots of these specific aerosol sunscreen products."
The company added that it's investigating how the chemical might have gotten into some of its products.

Valisure, the lab that identified the benzene in some of J&J's products, also found elevated levels of the cancerous chemical in various other popular sun-care products, including a couple of CVS store-brand products that were pulled from shelves Thursday. Beasley Allen attorney David Byrne said in a statement:
"When these kinds of safety failures occur, the American public deserves a swift and transparent accounting of what happened and what is being done to ensure it doesn't happen again. J&J's response falls far short of that."