Unilever is recalling aerosol dry shampoos sold nationwide because they may contain high levels of benzene, a human carcinogen. The recall is the latest of half a dozen so far this year, with the cancer-causing chemical appearing in products including deodorant, hand sanitizer and sunscreen.
People should take benzene-related recalls seriously because they involve a far more dangerous contaminant than most, according to David Light, CEO of Valisure, an independent lab in New Haven, Connecticut, which alerted the Food and Drug Administration to its findings of benzene in sunscreen sprays last year.
“Benzene is such a bad molecule — it’s at the very top of the FDA’s list of 70 solvents not to use,” Light told CBS MoneyWatch, adding that unlike some chemicals, “there’s no no debate as to whether or not it causes cancer. in humans.”
That doesn’t mean anyone who has used any of the recalled products will develop cancer, said Light, an entrepreneur and biotech scientist. Still, “benzene should not be confused with many other areas of concern. It’s a very problematic compound, and it shouldn’t be ignored,” he said.
“Even small amounts are a big action,” Light added, citing the global recall that followed the discovery of benzene in bottles of Perrier mineral water more than three decades ago.
Aerosol-type products are more likely to contain benzene than the general sphere of consumer products, as are petroleum-derived products such as gels, lotions, creams and sunscreens, Light said.
The chemical is not an ingredient in any of the recalled products, but is likely derived from other petroleum products such as butane, which if not refined properly may end up containing other components such as benzene , explained Light.
“Unfortunately, the more we searched, the more we found,” he said of testing by Valisure, which late last year asked the FDA for product recalls after it detected benzene in 54% of 108 lots of 30 brands of body spray products.
The latest recall affects dry shampoo aerosols manufactured before October 2021 from the brands Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head) and TRESemmé, the company said in a notice issued last week by the FDA. (See here for a full list of recalled products and UPC codes.)
An internal Unilever investigation identified the propellant as the source, and the company has been working with its propellant suppliers to resolve the issue, he said.
People who purchased the affected aerosol dry shampoos should stop using them and visit UnileverRecall.com for refund instructions.
The recall is the second this year for Unilever involving a product possibly containing benzene. The conglomerate sells around 400 products worldwide, from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Exposure to benzene can lead to cancers, including leukemia and blood marrow blood cancer, as well as life-threatening blood disorders. Daily exposure to benzene in recalled products at levels detected in testing “is not expected to result in adverse health consequences,” Unilever said.
Commonly Found Chemical
One of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the United States, benzene is found in gasoline and cigarette smoke, according the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People are usually exposed by breathing the chemical in the air, but they can also absorb it into their bodies by touching petroleum products or by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink.
In late March, Unilever recalled two Suave Barrier Spray antiperspirants 24 hours after an internal review found mildly elevated levels of benzene in some samples.
Four other companies have recalled products this year after finding benzene in samples, and more than half a dozen recalls have occurred for the same reason last year.
In December, for example, Procter & Gamble aerosol dry shampoo recalled and conditioner sprays from six brands sold nationwide after benzene was found in some of them.
But benzene isn’t the only cancer-causing chemical causing concern among users and manufacturers of personal care products.
A lawsuit filed Friday against L’Oreal alleges that chemicals in the French company’s hair straighteners caused a woman’s uterine cancer. The complaint for “phthalates and other endocrine disruptors” came days after a study established a link between the use of these products and uterine cancer.
L’Oreal Did not respond to a request for comment.
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