Australian regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said all batches with an expiry date of August 30 2023 or earlier should not be used.
Benzene is classified as a human carcinogen, a substance that could potentially cause cancer depending on the level and extent of exposure. 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.
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 is recalling all batches of the affected product supplied within Australia.
This latest development comes after the firm recalled five products in the US for the same reason last month.
According to Professor Oliver Jones, Associate Dean of Biosciences and Food Technology at RMIT, the discovery showed that safety systems were working well.
"This headline might sound scary at first, but 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. In other words, it tells us how much of something is in a larger amount of something else.
“One ppm is 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."