Recall: Carcinogens in Banana Boat’s spray sunscreen

Edgewell Personal Care Company recalled its Banana Boat Hair & Scalp Sunscreen Spray – SPF 30 because the product contains trace amounts of benzene, a well-established cancer-causing chemical. Exposure to benzene increases the risk to humans of developing leukemia and other blood disorders.  

benzene in banana boat sunscreen

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Edgewell maintains that benzene is not an ingredient in its sunscreen spray, but that during routine testing, unexpected levels of the chemical were found in the propellant that sprays the product from the can.   

 The sunscreen sprays were packaged in aerosol cans and distributed across the U.S. The recalled products had expiration dates for December 2022, February 2023, and April 2024. The affected products can also be identified by a lot code number found on the bottom of the can.  

“Importantly, no other batches of Hair & Scalp (either before or after the impacted production batches) and no other Banana Boat products are in the scope of this recall and may continue to be used by consumers safely and as intended,” according to Edgewell’s spokesperson.  

girls tanning on the beach

Unanswered questions 

Edgewell has not yet publicly addressed how and why a well-established carcinogen, like benzene, was used in the propellant for the product.  Was this unknown to the company during production?  Did Edgewell do so intentionally to increase its profit margins?  Was it done to make the aerosol perform better?     

What is benzene?

Benzene is a chemical that is either clear, or slightly yellowish in color. It evaporates in the air very quickly, but only slightly in water, where it floats on top.  

Benzene is widely used in the U.S. and is a top-ranking chemical, which is used to make different chemicals that are utilized to produce: 

  • Plastics
  • Lubricants 
  • Nylon 
  • Rubber 
  • Synthetic fibers 
  • Dyes 
  • Detergents 
  • Pesticides 
  • Resin 

hand connected to IV in the hospital due to benzene poisoning

What are the immediate symptoms of benzene poisoning?

People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours: 

  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat 
  • Headaches 
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion 
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Death (at very high levels) 

 Eating foods or drinking beverages with high levels of benzene can cause the following symptoms within minutes to several hours: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Irritation of the stomach 
  • Dizziness 
  • Sleepiness 
  • Convulsions 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat 
  • Death (at very high levels) 
  • Direct exposure of the eyes, skin, or lungs to benzene can cause tissue injury and irritation. 

 We should note that showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to benzene. 

Long-term health effects of exposure to benzene

  • The significant effect of benzene from long-term exposure (a minimum of one year) is on the blood.  The chemical produces negative effects on bone marrow and can cause a drop in red blood cell counts, leading to anemia. Excessive bleeding is another possibility, as well as the weakening of the immune system, which increases the chance for infection. 
  • Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not yet known whether or not benzene exposure can affect developing fetuses in pregnant women,  or alters fertility in men. 
  • Benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood. 

Safety Recommendationsultrasound photo

The concern is that other manufacturers may be using benzene in their propellants, especially in sunscreen spray products. Therefore, it may very well be a good idea to avoid using aerosol sunscreen products, and instead, use lotion and non-aerosol sprays.  

If you choose to do so, make sure that you spray outdoors in a well-ventilated area, and consider wearing a mask while applying the sunscreen.  It is certainly not worth exposing you, your children, and your family to a known human carcinogen.   

If you or a loved one have suffered due to exposure to benzene through the negligence of a company, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the experienced toxic exposure attorneys at Allen and Allen today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.