Home Benzene Lawsuits

Benzene Lawsuits

Some people develop cancer from repeated exposure to benzene. Exposure may occur through consumer products or in the workplace. People have filed personal injury claims, wrongful death suits and participated in class-action lawsuits against defendants.

Last Modified: October 26, 2023
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Types of Benzene Lawsuit Claims

Benzene lawsuits take various forms, including personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits and class-action suits. In most personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs claim they developed a serious medical condition because of benzene exposure. Class-action lawsuits include people who say benzene exposure caused them harm. As a result, they are pursuing collective compensation. Wrongful death claims are filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

Benzene is one of the 20 most commonly used chemicals in America. It is also a known cause of leukemia and other cancers. You can be exposed to it through commercially available products such as antiperspirants, deodorants, hand sanitizers, sunscreens, dry shampoos and other aerosol sprays.

Workers in chemical industries or gasoline refineries also risk benzene exposure. You may also be exposed to benzene-contaminated drinking water, food and air from environmental chemical spills.

Personal Care Brands Named in Benzene Lawsuits

Some popular personal care brands, such as Secret, Old Spice, Nexxus and Suave, contain benzene. Their manufacturers — Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Edgewell Personal Care Company — are defending legal claims that allege their benzene-containing products caused serious illnesses.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspects benzene’s use in product thickeners and spray applications are causing contamination. The FDA has also found that certain substances and compounds produce benzene when mixed.

Personal care products may expose consumers to benzene by inhalation of aerosol sprays or through skin contact. While inhalation and ingestion contribute more tooverall exposure, medical experts suspect percutaneous absorption through intact skin may also play a role.

Johnson & Johnson’s Aveeno and Neutrogena Sunscreens

In July 2021, J&J voluntarily recalled five aerosol sunscreens under the Neutrogena and Aveeno brands after external testing revealed low levels of benzene. People who believe contact with benzene in these products harmed them may file individual claims for damages against J&J. Some have joined a federal class-action lawsuit because the FDA had banned benzene in sunscreen.

Edgewell’s Banana Boat Sunscreen

In 2022, Edgewell recalled Banana Boat sunscreen because it contained benzene. It also recalled a fresh lot of Banana Boat Hair & Scalp Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 in January 2023 after the Valisure testing lab found benzene in 10 sunscreen brands, including seven Banana Boat products.

In Connecticut, a class-action lawsuit claims that people who used Banana Boat sunscreen had high risks of skin cancer. The complaints assert that Edgewell knew about the benzene in its products but did not warn consumers.

In March 2023, Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut partially allowed some claims to continue but dismissed others claims for products that were tested for benzene. The judge said those products mentioned in dismissed cases likely involved a different manufacturing process.

Beiersdorf’s Coppertone Sunscreen

In August 2021 the FDA issued a nationwide voluntary recall of certain batches of Coppertone Pure & Simple SPF 50 Spray. Besides product liability actions, Beiersdorf, the manufacturer, faces personal injury lawsuits from consumers who claim the company failed to warn them about the spray’s risks. For instance, Ballotti v. Beiersdorf Inc. details a consumer claim that Coppertone sunscreen did not protect her adequately from sunlight, leading to painful blistering and skin discoloration.

People are pursuing legal action to hold the company liable for any damage caused by its product lines after learning that Coppertone sunscreen contained benzene. The news also raised safety concerns about the company’s other sunscreen products.

Procter & Gamble Brands

The FDA received petitions to recall several P&G deodorant and body spray brands after an independent testing laboratory revealed high amounts of benzene in November 2021. Brands included Aussie, Herbal Essences, Old Spice, Pantene and Secret.

The recall led to lawsuits claiming P&G knew about the benzene contamination but did nothing to warn consumers or pull the products off shelves. P&G settled these claims. People who chose not to participate in the settlement or the class-action lawsuits can file separate claims.

Unilever Brands

In April 2022, Unilever recalled its Suave 24-Hour Protection Aerosol Antiperspirant and other aerosol products because of high levels of benzene. Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Unilever.

In November 2021, Yvonne Barnes and Patricia Dean filed a class-action lawsuit against Unilever United States Incorporated. The lawsuit claims that if the plaintiffs had known there was benzene in Suave 24-Hour Protection Aerosol Antiperspirant, they would not have purchased it. Plaintiffs say they were not warned about the carcinogen in the product and claim economic damages.

In March 2023 a judge denied Unilever’s bid to dismiss the suit, their primary contention being that all their claims are expressly preempted by federal law. In March 2023, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation for consolidation of the Unilever cases, but this was denied.

Camp Lejeune Benzene Lawsuits

Meanwhile, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, is at the forefront of more than 100 water contamination lawsuits, with more expected. Plaintiffs who lived or worked at the military base allege that benzene exposure at the base caused multiple cancer diagnoses and other severe diseases. The revelations have led to more contamination investigations.

In a June 2023 ruling, the court found that the federal government could continue with any affirmative defenses. However, the judge ruled that plaintiffs can claim the defenses are insufficient later in the litigation.

The Camp Lejeune lawsuits attempt to get toxic chemical victims and their families compensation. Veterans who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can file lawsuits and receive VA compensation according to the PACT Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022.

The PACT Act improves access to treatment and benefits for veterans by expanding the list of presumptive diseases related to exposure to hazardous chemicals. The VA helps veterans determine eligibility for benefits.

Occupational and Environmental Exposure Benzene Lawsuits

Exposure to benzene can also come from the environment and work. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection settled with Duell Fuel Co. in August 2022 because of benzene contamination in surface water and sediment from the company-owned manufactured gas plant. The state cleaned up the site, and Duell Fuel paid $1.5 million in expenses and penalties, plus cleanup costs.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued a railroad firm in 2020, alleging a breach of the Clean Air Act and the exposure of employees to benzene.

A 2014 Center for Public Integrity report revealed that U.S. companies hid benzene’s cancer risks. Documents at multiple companies show executives knew about benzene’s cancer-causing properties as early as 1948. However, companies still spent $36 million on research proving benzene was safe. These disclosures have prompted several benzene-related illnesse lawsuits from employees.

Radiator Specialty Co. has faced benzene lawsuits as far back as the 2000s. In May 2023, the company said it was looking to dissolve, saying its liabilities far exceed its assets and insurance wouldn’t cover the benzene claims.

Benzene Lawsuit Verdicts and Jury Awards

Over the past three decades, courts have awarded several multimillion-dollar awards because of benzene exposure. Notable verdicts and awards include:

  • $21 million in 2019: A California man exposed to benzene while working for Chevron received the award after developing leukemia.
  • $824,000 in 2016: A Pennsylvania jury found U.S. Steel responsible for an employee’s leukemia caused by occupational exposure to benzene.
  • $8.2 million in 2015: A jury in Texas awarded $8.2 million to a man who claimed he got leukemia after exposure to benzene at work.
  • $7.5 million in 2014: The Nevada Supreme Court upheld an award for exposure to benzene from gasoline. The plaintiff claimed benzene exposure was a direct cause of his leukemia.

These verdicts and awards highlight the risks associated with benzene exposure and a company’s need to protect workers and consumers. For instance, the family of Otis Mason received a $3.15 million award after exposure to benzene at Texaco Inc. He died of leukemia.

Many other benzene exposure cases are in progress and could result in additional verdicts and awards.

Benzene Settlement Amounts

Some benzene lawsuits are settled long before a verdict. Shell and ConocoPhillips settled a benzene exposure lawsuit in 2018 with residents of Roxana, Illinois, for $4.83 million. The refinery experienced 18 benzene incidents in 25 years, discharging nearly 200,000 pounds of the chemical into the nearby environment.

Other benzene exposure settlements include:
  • $2.3 million in 2023: In a Coppertone sunscreen settlement, the company paid to end litigation over allegations that its products contained benzene.
  • $1.95 million in 2023: Henkel Corp. and Thriving Brands LLC agreed to settle a benzene class-action lawsuit for its aerosol deodorant brands.
  • $3 million in 2022: Virgin Scent entered into a $3 million settlement agreement for the class actions against some hand sanitizers contaminated with benzene.
  • $8 million in 2022: Procter & Gamble settled a class-action lawsuit amid revelations that Old Spice and Secret deodorants contained benzene.
  • Undisclosed Amounts in 2021: Cases involving J&J and Costco’s benzene-tainted sunscreen recall also resulted in settlements of undisclosed amounts.

Several lawsuits involving benzene are still in progress, and their resolution might lead to more settlements in time.

Questions Benzene Lawyers May Ask

What is your occupation?

Individuals who work in a refinery or other occupations with exposure to benzenemay be eligible to file a benzene lawsuit. Oil rig workers, painters and people who work with pesticides are among the people most at risk of long-term benzene exposure.

How long have you been working around benzene?

People filing lawsuits have been working around benzene for at least a year.

What type of cancer have you been diagnosed with?

If you’ve been diagnosed with leukemia, specifically acute myeloid leukemia, your attorney may establish that benzene exposure caused your cancer.

Do you have a copy of your medical records?

Your attorney will want copies of all medical records related to your leukemia diagnosis, including the results of tests used to determine your cancer diagnosis, the date of your diagnosis and any treatments you’ve been given.

Does cancer run in your family?

People who have a history of cancer in their family may be more likely to develop certain types of cancer. Providing a copy of your medical records will give your attorney a closer look at your family’s medical history.

Can you provide a list of all of the employers you have had and the positions you held at these companies?

Providing your attorney with a list of your previous and current employers can give them more information to establish a connection between your leukemia and benzene exposure.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.