Neutrogena Sued Over Cancer-Causing Chemical in Dandruff Shampoo

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Class Action Targets Neutrogena Over Alleged Carcinogenic Chemical in T-Gel Products

A California man who bought shampoo to get dandruff relief says the product instead put him at risk of cancer.

Plaintiff Jordan Eisman filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and Kenvue Inc. on March 12 in a California federal court, alleging the companies make Neutrogena T/Gel shampoos with a dangerous chemical in them. 

Eisman is suing for violations of state and federal consumer laws.

He says Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue make and sell coal tar shampoo products under the brands Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo—Original Formula and Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo—Extra Strength that contain benzene. Benzene is a known human carcinogen.

What is benzene?

Benzene is a chemical typically used in the manufacture of gasoline and other chemicals or textiles. 

According to the lawsuit, the major United States source of benzene is petroleum. It says the health hazards of benzene have been recognized for over one hundred years. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration, benzene is a carcinogen that can cause cancer in humans. The FDA classifies benzene as a Class 1 solvent that should be “avoided.” 

Benzene is also associated with side effects including vomiting, stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, low fertility, and excess bleeding, the lawsuit says. Despite this, the plaintiff says testing of the Neutrogena T-Gel shampoos found they contained “extremely high levels” of benzene.

Plaintiff's unwelcome surprise: Dandruff relief or cancer risk?

Eisman says he used the shampoo to treat his scalp, not knowing the products were contaminated with harmful levels of benzene.  

“Plaintiff thus suffered cellular and genetic injury and suffered an increased risk that plaintiff will develop further personal harm injury in the future as a result of such exposure,” the lawsuit alleges.

Eisman says the companies should have known benzene could have been in the products. He says benzene is a substance found in coal tar, and it can be removed. The companies had an “obligation” to do so, he says.

“Defendants did not properly manufacture their Coal Tar Shampoo Products to reduce or eliminate benzene or properly test and monitor their Coal Tar Shampoo Products for the presence of benzene.”

Eisman is looking to represent anyone in the United States who paid any amount of money for the products. 

A history of hazardous exposures

A number of companies have faced lawsuits over their negligence when it comes to benzene.

In June 2023, a California jury awarded a $63 million jury verdict to a man who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after his home was built directly over a toxic chemical pit near Santa Barbara containing benzene. The jury found that the oil company Chevron, which owned the Union Oil Company of California that operated a sump pit for oil and gas production at the location, hid the toxic pit when the man bought the land to build his home in 1985.

Last month, makers of Proactiv, Clearasil were sued in proposed class action lawsuits that alleged the companies sold benzoyl peroxide acne products without warning consumers that they contain unsafe levels of benzene. 

In March 2019, a jury in Contra Costa, California awarded $21.4 million to the families of two brothers who died from cancer caused by their exposure to benzene. 

In this case, Eisman alleges breach of warranty, fraud, violations of state consumer protection laws, negligence and unjust enrichment. He’s seeking certification of the t gel class action lawsuit, damages, fees, costs and a jury trial. 

The plaintiff and proposed class is represented by Allan Kanner and Conlee S. Whiteley of Kanner & Whiteley L.L.C. and Ruben Honik and David J. Stanoch of Honik LLC. 

The Neutrogena benzene t gel class action lawsuit is Eisman et al., v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc et al., Case No. 2:24-cv-01982 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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