What you should know about the Unilever recalled dry shampoo incident

The items were recalled by Unilever because they could contain “elevated amounts” of benzene, which can cause cancer when exposed to high doses over an extended period of time.

Several dry shampoos from Unilever have been recalled because they may contain “elevated amounts” of benzene.

Over a dozen aerosol dry shampoos from Unilever have been recalled due to concerns that they may contain “elevated amounts” of benzene, a naturally occurring substance that, when exposed to high concentrations over an extended period, may cause cancer.

The company that makes consumer goods recently issued its most recent recall in response to rising levels of benzene contamination in various aerosol items, including some sunscreens and deodorants.

Which dry shampoo products is Unilever recalling?

Aerosol dry shampoos manufactured before October 2021 and sold in the United States under the names Bed Head, Dove, Nexxus, Suave, Rockaholic, and TRESemme are being voluntarily recalled by Unilever. In a statement, the company claimed that it had not been made aware of any “adverse events” involving the recalled products and that an “independent health hazard evaluation” had determined that daily exposure to the benzene in those products is not anticipated to have any negative effects on health.

According to the statement, “Unilever U.S. is recalling these items out of an excess of caution.” Users of the impacted aerosol dry shampoo products should cease using them.

Refunds are available from the business for the individual goods listed below.

What’s benzene?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid with a sweet-smelling and highly combustible property. According to the FDA, it is one of the top 20 compounds used in the US. According to the American Chemistry Council, it serves as a “building block” for other compounds and materials.

According to the CDC, benzene may often be detected in crude oil. In addition to several lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, medicines, and insecticides, businesses utilize benzene to create plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers.

According to experts, benzene is present in the air we breathe daily, particularly when we fill up our cars at the gas station. A few brands of cigarettes, detergents, glues, and paints also contain benzene.

How does benzene get into the dry shampoo you use?

According to Unilever, the benzene source was the propellant in the spray cans of the dry shampoo, and the company stated it is collaborating with suppliers to find a solution.

Butane, a petroleum product, is a typical propellant in spray cans, according to Chris Cappa, an environmental engineering professor at the University of California in Davis. If the butane refining process “isn’t very good,” you can wind up with gas that also includes benzene and other elements from the crude oil. According to Cappa, the most probable source of benzene is that gas.

“You may choose various products that you use if you want to reduce the possible exposure to things like benzene from tainted spray cans,” he added.

Because benzene will dissipate into the larger environment, using a spray sunscreen outdoors instead of an aerosolized dry shampoo indoors reduces the danger of exposure to high levels of benzene, according to Cappa.

According to Minneapolis-based cosmetic scientist Marisa Plescia, dry shampoos are “very simple” solutions that use a mix of powdered starches, silica, and scent to absorb oil from your hair. No business knowingly includes benzene in its goods. It’s pollution, according to Plescia.

Is benzene dangerous to people?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, breathing in, eating, or absorbing benzene over an extended period may result in major health problems, including malignancies like leukemia and other blood abnormalities.

According to the CDC, benzene may reduce the number of red blood cells generated by the bone marrow, resulting in anemia. Altering the blood levels of antibodies may harm the body’s immune system. People who inhale large amounts of benzene may have headaches, an erratic heartbeat, tremors, and drowsiness.

High benzene concentrations may cause nausea, vertigo, drowsiness, and seizures. Direct benzene exposure may cause tissue damage and irritation in the eyes, skin, and lungs. Some women exposed to high benzene concentrations reported irregular menstrual cycles and smaller ovaries. According to the CDC, “it is unknown if benzene exposure affects the developing baby in pregnant women or male fertility.”

According to Kelly Dobos, an adjunct professor and cosmetic scientist at the University of Cincinnati, benzene is “definitely harmful,” yet we are exposed to it every day, and the contamination levels in these cosmetic items often range from tens to hundreds of parts per million. It’s a little contamination, according to Dobos. There are toxicologists employed by the cosmetic industry. To assure the safety of their goods, they do thorough research.

Dobos advised using aerosol products outside or with a window open in a well-ventilated environment.

What other items include benzene?

In the last two years, aerosolized versions of sunscreen, antifungal deodorants, conditioners, and deodorants have all been recalled due to potential benzene contamination.

More than 30 aerosolized hair care products, including dry shampoos and conditioners, were recalled by Procter & Gamble last year when it was discovered that they contained significant amounts of detectable benzene. The corporation recalled more than a dozen aerosol deodorants with the Old Spice and Secret brands.

The supply chain of the propellants, the butane or propane fuel for the spray cans, must be impacted for there to be such high levels of benzene in each of the aerosol products, according to Homer Swei, a senior vice president at the environmental advocacy and research group Environmental Working Group.

He said that while benzene is carcinogenic, it is unknown how long or how much exposure is necessary to induce these health problems. It is difficult to “account for all these various sorts of exposure” since there are several sources of benzene, according to Swei. Until the industry can address these supply chain issues, he advised people to “avoid using these aerosols.”

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