Unilever’s recall pertains to products made prior to October 2021. The move once again raises questions about the safety of aerosols in personal-care products. In the past year and a half, a number of aerosol sunscreens have been pulled from shelves, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena, Edgewell Personal Care Co.’s Banana Boat and Beiersdorf AG’s Coppertone along with spray-on antiperspirants like Procter & Gamble Co.’s Secret and Old Spice and Unilever’s Suave.
The recalls were set off by findings of benzene in such products by an analytical lab called Valisure, based in New Haven, Connecticut, starting in May 2021.
This isn’t the first time spray-on dry shampoo has been identified as a problem. P&G tested its whole portfolio of aerosol products following Valisure’s findings. The company then recalled its Pantene and Herbal Essences dry shampoos in December, citing benzene contamination.
“Given what we’ve seen, it unfortunately makes sense that other consumer-product categories, like aerosol dry shampoos, could be heavily affected by benzene contamination and we are actively investigating this area,” said Valisure chief executive officer David Light.
The problem with aerosols has largely appeared to be from the propellants used to spray the personal-care products from the cans. Unilever said this was the case with its dry shampoo recall. The company did not release the amount of benzene found in the products, though said it was recalling them out of an abundance of caution. The FDA said “daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.” Yet the agency also said exposure to benzene can result in leukemia and other blood cancers.
Spray-on personal-care products like dry shampoos often contain propellants like propane and butane, which are petroleum distillates made by refining crude oil. Benzene is a known contaminant of petroleum products. The FDA has confirmed propellants are a potential source of benzene contamination.
While the FDA hasn’t set benzene limits for cosmetics like dry shampoo, it does say the products shouldn’t contain “any poisonous or deleterious substance.”