Procter & Gamble is the latest major company involved in a recall of its products over the chemical benzene. In all, the company is recalling aerosol dry shampoo and conditioners from six of its brands. P&G is just the latest company to find benzene, classified as a human carcinogen, in its products.
The P&G brands involved in the recall include Aussie, Herbal Essences, Waterless, and Pantene. The Cincinnati-based consumer goods company products appear in a December 17, 2021, notice by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
P & G distributed the products nationwide and online. Consumers can receive reimbursement, and the company suggests you discard the product. Look for the first four numbers of the product code on the bottom of the can. The FDA website gives you the numbers to look for on each product.
These are all aerosol dry conditioner spray products and aerosol dry shampoo spray. Other liquid shampoos and conditioners made by P & G are not part of the recall, nor are hairsprays, styling products, or mousse.
P&G says that previously discontinued aerosol dry shampoos from Old Spice and Hair Food were also found with benzene detected in some products.
What is Benzene?
Consumers use these personal care products daily, increasing the risk of cancers. Because the products are used on the scalp and skin, benzene can absorb into the body, either by direct contact or inhalation. The problem with finding benzene in consumer products is the potential for repeated exposure.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies benzene as a Class A carcinogen produced by the gasoline and crude oil industry. It is found in industry, specifically the manufacture of paints, rubber, plastics, detergents, and lubricants. Car exhaust contains benzene, which is highly flammable.
In the human body, benzene impacts the bone marrow by causing the underproduction of red blood cells. The immune system is damaged, opening up the way for several forms of cancer – Leukemia, AML, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Myelodysplastic Syndrome.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites that benzene, present throughout the environment, can cause cancer with repeat exposure. P&G cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in saying even daily exposure to benzene, in the levels included in the recalled products, would not be expected to cause illness.
P & G reports it has not received any adverse event reports connected to these recalled products. The company says it is conducting this voluntary recall in an abundance of caution.
How then does benzene get into personal care products?
Benzene is not an ingredient in any recalled products, but P&G says the unexpected levels found came from the propellant that shoots the product out of the can.
In a recent recall of sunscreens, an accredited lab that tests for product quality, Valisure found dozens of sunscreens tested also showed the presence of benzene. The lab said that there is no safe level of benzene that can exist in products.
Valisure indicated that the contamination must have come from the manufacturing process since benzene is not an ingredient in sunscreens.
The products in the recall specifically include:
- Waterless Dry conditioner
- Pantene Sultry Bronde All in One Luxury Mist
- Pantene Smooth Talker Dry Conditioning Oil
- Pantene Mist Behaving Dry Conditioning Mist
- Pantene Gold Series
- Aussie Smooth Vibes Dry conditioner
- Aussie Petal Soft Dry Conditioner
- Aussie Sleekend Warrior Dry Conditioner
- Herbal Essences White Strawberry, Cucumber, Blue Ginger, Dry Shampoo
- Pantene Dry Shampoo
- Pantene Never Tell Dry Shampoo
- Aussie After Hours Dry Shampoo
- Aussie Tousle Hustle Dry Shampoo
- Aussie Bounce Back Dry Shampoo
- Aussie Clean Color Protect Shampoo
- Aussie Clean Texture Dry shampoo
- Waterless Dry Shampoo
- Hair Food Coconut Dry Shampoo
- Old Spice Fiji Dry Shampoo
- Old Spice Pure Sport Dry Shampoo
Other Benzene Recalls
Earlier this year, several products were also found to contain benzene. They include five sunscreen products by Coppertone. Johnson & Johnson recalled five of its sunscreens.
Even the product Odor-Eaters, owned by Blistex Inc., was recalled when the foot spray in an aerosol can was contaminated with benzene.
In October, Bayer recalled lots of Lotrimin and Tinactin foot deodorants due to benzene. These products were packaged in aerosol spray cans. Benzene is not an ingredient in any Bayer product.
Hand sanitizers containing benzene were taken off store shelves earlier in the year.
A U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) spokesperson told CBS News that “Tests for benzene should happen before, not after, products end up on store shelves and in the hands of consumers.”
Isabel Brown continued, “These are products that people use every day, and the health risks increase with prolonged use. Whether it’s an ingredient that the manufacturer adds or not, the fact is that a known carcinogen keeps showing up in aerosol products. This can’t happen again,” Brown added.
In November, a customer filed a proposed class action in federal court against Procter & Gamble Co. in South Florida, alleging Old Space and Secret Aerosol antiperspirants contain benzene.
The case is Bryski v. Procter & Gamble Co., S.D. Fla., No. 0:21-cv-62285, complaint 11/4/21.
The suit follows a November 3, 2021, Citizens Petition filed with the FDA by Valisure, the testing lab. The Valisure petition also sparked at least 17 other federal lawsuits over Old Spice and Secret Powder Fresh in federal court in Cincinnati.
It says Valisure has tested and detected high levels of benzene in certain lots of body sprays.
Benzene should not be used in any personal product or drug product; however, the FDA says if its presence is unavoidable, it should be restricted to under 2 parts per million (PPM).
Valisure says detectable levels of benzene are avoidable because the chemical is not found in a large number of personal and drug products the independent lab tested.