- Dry shampoos are being recalled due to potential concerns that they contain a cancer-causing substance.
- Unilever confirmed that the problem was discovered as part of an internal investigation which identified the aerosol propellant as the source.
- Unilever also said that they’re working with their propellant suppliers to address the issue.
On October 18, New Jersey-based Unilever announced a voluntary recall of multiple dry shampoo brands including Dove, Nexxus and Suave, that are manufactured by the business conglomerate.
The reason is that these products could expose consumers to a carcinogenic substance called benzene.
“Unilever United States today issued a voluntary product recall to the consumer level of select lot codes of dry shampoo aerosol products produced prior to October 2021 from Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head), and TRESemmé due to potentially elevated levels of benzene,” the company said in a statement.
Unilever confirmed that the problem was discovered as part of an internal investigation which identified the aerosol propellant as the source. Unilever also said that they’re working with their propellant suppliers to address the issue.
The recalled brands
People who have purchased the recalled products are urged to stop using them and throw them out or return them to the store where they were purchased.
A full list and description of recalled products can be found here.
Consumers will find instructions on how to be reimbursed for those products at unileverrecall.com.
You may also call Unilver at (877) 270-7412 Monday-Friday, 8:30AM to 9PM EST, or submit a report about any adverse effect you experienced to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) here.
Benzene is a known carcinogen
According to Nima Majlesi, DO, director of medical toxicology at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, benzene is a known carcinogen meaning it is known to cause cancer.
“The degree of carcinogenicity has much to do with the degree of exposure,” she told Healthline.
She emphasized that similar to any exposure, “it’s the dose that makes the poison.”
Majlesi added that most occurrences are by inhalation, and typical in many types of industry.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulate the degree of exposures in these work environments,” she said.
It is specifically associated with leukemia particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
How can benzene affect you?
Majlesi said that benzene is specifically associated with developing leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
However, the level of exposure in Unilever’s recalled products might not be high enough for concern.
“It seems the amount of benzene in these products is very low,” she said.
Majlesi added that it’s unlikely that the amount of exposure could lead to a high risk of leukemia.
“Remember, we are exposed to benzene on a daily basis in varying degrees and concentrations,’ she explained. “The exposure from these dry shampoos, though not insignificant, are still very low and unlikely to lead to significant consequences.”
Recall conducted due to an ‘abundance’ of caution
Unilever said that based on an independent health hazard evaluation, daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in testing “would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.”
The recalled products were distributed nationwide in the United States, and retailers have already been notified to remove recalled products from shelves.
The company explained that they’re recalling these products out of an “abundance of caution.” They confirmed that no reports of adverse events have been received to date relating to the recall.
“Benzene is ubiquitous in the environment,” the FDA said in a statement. “Humans around the world have daily exposures to it indoors and outdoors from multiple sources.”
Symptoms of benzene exposure
Majlesi warned that a high-dose exposure to benzene can lead to symptoms like drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and/or unconsciousness.
“Obviously in this situation we are worried about mostly inhalational exposures,” she continued. Majlesi also pointed out that there could be a risk from skin exposure as well.
Accidentally swallowing this substance can cause more dramatic and serious symptoms that could lead to rapid death, said Majlesi.
“However, these would be high-dose exposures,” she noted. “All of these are very unlikely from these dry shampoos.”
Sources of benzene in our environment
Majlesi advises we stay away from cigarette smoke, limit gasoline fumes and “persistent inhalation” of car exhaust fumes, and avoid skin contact with gasoline.
“Limit or avoid exposure to fumes from solvents, and paints in unventilated spaces,” she continued. “Workplace exposure can occur in the rubber industry, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, and gasoline-related industries.”
Majlesi emphasized that the most important thing is to never get panicked or paranoid.
“Having a doctor to check for levels of benzene or its metabolites are not useful and do not help predict who will develop disease,” she said.
The bottom line
Unilever recently announced a recall of multiple aerosol dry shampoo products due to contamination with a carcinogen called benzene.
The company said daily exposure to the amount of benzene involved is unlikely to cause adverse health affects and is being conducted due to an “abundance of caution.”
Experts say people shouldn’t panic or become paranoid due to the news, and it’s unnecessary to get benzene levels checked by your healthcare provider.
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