Scientist promoting recalls says aerosol products at higher risk for benzene

Unilever is recalling dry shampoo aerosol products sold nationwide because they may contain high levels of benzene, which is carcinogenic to humans. The recall is the latest half-dozen so far this year, with the cancer-causing chemical coming out in products like deodorant, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen.

According to David Light, CEO of Valisure, an independent laboratory based in New Haven, Connecticut, people should take benzene-related recalls seriously because they contain much more dangerous pollutants than most of them. Last year there was benzene in sunscreen sprays.

“Benzene is a very bad molecule — it’s at the top of the FDA’s list of 70 certain solvents that shouldn’t be used,” Light told CBS MoneyWatch, adding that, unlike some chemicals, “there is no debate about whether it causes cancer in people. “

Biotech entrepreneur and scientist Light stressed that it does not mean that everyone who uses one of the recalled products will get cancer. Still, “Benzene should not be confused with many other areas of concern. It is a very problematic compound and should not be ignored,” he said.

“Even small amounts constitute a big action,” Light added, referring to the global recall that followed the discovery of benzene in Perrier mineral water bottles more than 30 years ago.

Aerosol-type products are more at risk of containing benzene than the general field of consumer products, such as gels, lotions, creams, and petroleum-derived products such as sunscreens, Light said.

Light explained that the chemical is not an ingredient in any of the recalled products, but as a result of other petroleum products such as butane, which may contain other components such as benzene if not properly refined.

“Unfortunately, the more we looked, the more we found,” he said of Valisure’s testing, which filed a product recall with the FDA after detecting benzene in 54% of 108 batches of 30 brand-name body spray products late last year.

In a statement released by the FDA last week, the most recent recall includes dry shampoo aerosol products made before October 2021 from brands Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head), and TRESemmé. (See here for a full list of reclaimed products and UPC codes.)

An internal investigation by Unilever stated that the propellant was identified as the source, and the company is working with propellant suppliers to resolve the issue.

People who purchase affected aerosol dry shampoo products should stop using them and visit UnileverRecall.com for refund instructions.

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Photograph of some products recalled by Unilever.

US Food and Drug Administration


The recall is the second this year for Unilever, possibly involving a benzene-containing product. The holding sells around 400 products worldwide, from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

Exposure to benzene can cause life-threatening blood disorders, as well as cancers such as leukemia and cancer of the blood in the blood marrow. Unilever said daily exposure to benzene at the levels detected in tests in the recalled products is “not expected to result in adverse health consequences”.

common chemical

Benzene, one of the most widely produced chemicals in the United States, is found in gasoline and cigarette smoke. by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People are usually exposed to the chemical by breathing in the air, but they can also absorb it by touching petroleum products or by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink.

Unilever recalled two Suave 24-hour protective aerosol antiperspirants in late March after an internal review found slightly high benzene levels in some samples.

Four other companies have recalled their products this year after finding benzene in samples, with more than half a dozen recalls same reason last year..

For example, in December, Procter & Gamble recalled aerosol dry shampoo and six brands of conditioner spray products sold nationwide after finding benzene in some.

However, benzene is not the only cancer-causing chemical of concern for users and manufacturers of personal care products.

A lawsuit filed against L’Oreal on Friday alleges that chemicals in the French company’s hair straighteners caused a woman’s uterine cancer. The lawsuit over “phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals” comes days after a study linking the use of such products to uterine cancer.

L’Oreal did not answer for comment request.

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