Aerosol products have a higher risk of benzene, says the scientist who prompted the recalls

Aerosol products have a higher risk of benzene, says the scientist who prompted the recalls
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Unilever is recalling dry shampoo spray products sold nationwide because they may contain elevated levels of benzene, a human carcinogen. The recall is the latest of a half-dozen so far this year, and the cancer-causing chemical has appeared in products including deodorant, hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

People should take benzene-related recalls seriously, as they involve a much more dangerous contaminant than most, according to David Light, CEO of Valisure, an independent laboratory in New Haven, Connecticut, which alerted the Food Administration. and Medicines about its findings of benzene in sunscreen sprays last year.

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

That doesn’t mean that someone who has used one of the recalled products will get cancer, stressed Light, a scientist and biotech entrepreneur. Still, “benzene should not be confused with many other areas of concern. This is a very problematic compound and should not be ignored,” he said.

“Even small amounts make up a big deal,” Light added, citing the worldwide recall that occurred after benzene was found in Perrier mineral water bottles more than three decades ago.

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

The chemical is not an ingredient in any of the recalled products, but it likely originated in other petroleum products such as butane, which if not properly refined can end up containing other components such as benzene, Light explained.

“Unfortunately, the more we looked, the more we found,” he said of the Valisure tests, which late last year required the FDA for product recalls after it detected benzene in 54% of 108 lots of 30 brands of body spray products.

The latest recall includes dry shampoo spray products manufactured before October 2021 under the Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head) and TRESemmé brands, the company said in a statement. Warning published last week by the FDA. (Watch here for a complete list of recalled products and UPC codes).

An internal Unilever investigation identified the propellant as the source, and the company worked with its propellant suppliers to address the issue, it said.

People who have purchased the affected dry shampoo spray products should stop using them and visit for refund instructions.

Photo of some products recalled by Unilever.

US Food and Drug Administration

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

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

Commonly Found Chemicals

One of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the US, benzene is present in gasoline and cigarette smoke, according to the US 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.

Unilever at the end of March remembered two Mild antiperspirant sprays with 24-hour protection after an internal review found slightly elevated levels of benzene in some samples.

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

In December, for example, Procter & Gamble Recalled aerosol dry shampoo and spray conditioners from six brands sold across the country after benzene was found in some of them.

But benzene isn’t the only carcinogenic chemical raising 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 uterine cancer in a woman. The suit for “phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals” came days after a to study link the use of such products with uterine cancer.

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