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J&J Class Action Lawsuit Over Benzene in Acne Products

This page will explain the details of the new class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson regarding the presence of benzene in some of its acne skin care products. The lawsuit claims that JNJ defrauded consumers by selling benzoyl peroxide acne products that were unsafe because they contained benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.

About J&J BPO Acne Products

Over fifty million Americans are affected by acne annually, making it the most common skin condition in the country. Acne’s prevalence is especially high among adolescents, nearly 95%, and can persist into adulthood, making effective and safe treatments crucial.

JNJ, a household name in pharmaceuticals and consumer healthcare with a history spanning over 135 years and global operations, has positioned itself as a leader in healthcare innovation. In 2022 alone, JNJ reported annual revenues of $94.9 billion, with $14.6 billion allocated to research and development, highlighting its significant role in healthcare product development. Among its diverse product portfolio, BPO acne treatments such as Clean & Clear and Neutrogena are notable for their widespread use. JNJ’s commitment to safety and science has been a cornerstone of its brand identity, reassuring consumers about the quality and safety of its products, including its dermatologist-approved BPO acne treatments.

Testing Finds Benzene in JNJ BPO Products

Consumer product testing by Valisure, a consumer advocacy lab that tests many products for unsafe chemicals, recently discovered that JNJ’s BPO acne products contain unsafe levels of benzene. Valisure disclosed this finding in a report provided to the Food and Drug Administration. The report indicated that benzene was found in many other BPO acne products, not just those made by JNJ.

About Benzene

Benzene is found in crude oil and is a major part of gasoline. It’s also used in the manufacturing of plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. People can be exposed to benzene in various environments, including industrial settings, through the use of certain consumer products, and in areas with heavy traffic or gasoline fumes.


Benzene is a big deal.  It is a no-doubt carcinogen that poses significant health risks to humans, especially through inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Exposure to benzene can lead to a range of acute and long-term health effects, some of which include:

Blood Disorders: Benzene is toxic to the bone marrow, the substance inside bones that produces blood cells. Long-term exposure can lead to blood disorders such as anemia (a reduction in red blood cells), which can cause fatigue and weakness. More severe blood conditions include aplastic anemia, which can be life-threatening.

Cancer: Benzene exposure has been strongly linked to leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. There is also evidence suggesting links to other types of leukemia and blood cancers, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Immune System Impact: Exposure to benzene can harm the immune system by reducing the number of white blood cells, which makes it more difficult for the body to fight infections.

Reproductive Effects: Benzene exposure has been associated with adverse reproductive effects. In women, it may lead to menstrual irregularities and a decrease in the size of the ovaries. There is also some evidence suggesting that it could affect fertility in men.

Neurological Effects: Acute exposure to high levels of benzene can cause dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and, at very high levels, death. Chronic exposure to lower levels of benzene can also lead to neurological symptoms like headaches and dizziness.

Given the severe health risks associated with benzene exposure, regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have established strict guidelines to limit exposure in the workplace and the environment

Class Action Lawsuit Against JNJ

In March 2024, a class action lawsuit was filed against JNJ regarding the presence of benzene in BPO acne products. The class action complaint alleges that JNJ failed to adequately test the BPO products for benzene contamination before selling them to consumers. The lawsuit claims that despite the known risks of benzene, a carcinogen linked to several types of leukemia and other health conditions, JNJ did not perform the necessary safety and stability tests to ensure their products were free from this hazardous chemical. The presence of benzene in consumer products is a significant concern, as evidenced by previous recalls of JNJ’s sunscreen products in 2021 due to benzene contamination.

The FDA has issued guidance to manufacturers to test for and eliminate benzene contamination, especially in products containing hydrocarbon-derived ingredients like BPO. Despite this, the lawsuit alleges JNJ continued to market and sell BPO products without adequate testing for benzene or warnings to consumers about potential contamination.

Valisure’s testing in 2023 revealed that common BPO acne treatment products contained dangerous levels of benzene, far exceeding regulatory limits. The independent laboratory’s findings prompted a citizen’s petition to the FDA, demanding an immediate recall of all contaminated BPO products. The lawsuit argues that JNJ’s failure to address and mitigate the risk of benzene contamination, despite known risks and FDA guidance, constitutes negligence and a breach of trust with consumers.

This legal action seeks to hold JNJ accountable for allegedly putting consumers at risk by failing to ensure the safety of its acne treatment products. The plaintiffs demand damages for economic losses and exposure to health risks, aiming to compel JNJ to adopt more stringent safety and testing standards for its products. The case underscores the importance of consumer safety in the healthcare product industry and the responsibilities of manufacturers to adhere to regulatory standards and scientific best practices to prevent harmful exposures.

JNJ Class Action Acne Product Lawsuit:

Montenegro et al v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., C.D. Cal., No. 2:24-cv-01895, 3/8/24.