Unilever announced a nationwide recall of dry shampoos that may have high levels of benzene.
The mega consumer goods company announced the voluntary recall on Oct. 18 for select lots of aerosol products, all of which had been produced prior to Oct. 2021.
Benzene is used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, detergents, rubbers, drugs, and pesticides. It is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature, is highly flammable, and has a sweet odor.
While benzene is naturally occurring and can be produced by forest fires and volcanoes, repeated and high exposure can have serious health consequences. Benzene disrupts normal cell production and can damage the immune system. Oral or transdermal exposure to or inhalation of the chemical can lead to leukemia, bone marrow cancers, or blood disorders. Tobacco smoke is considered a major source of benzene exposure.
Unilever said it was acting out of “an abundance of caution” and had not received “reports of adverse events to date relating to this recall.”
“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 company said in its statement.
Unilever published a full list of impacted products and their lot codes. The recall includes dry shampoos from Dove, Suave, Tresemme, Bed Head, and Rockaholic. Anyone who purchased an impacted item has been directed to visit UnileverRecall.com for instructions on receiving a reimbursement.
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of benzene exposure include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, loss of consciousness and tremors.
“Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia,” states the CDC. “It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection. Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries.”
CBS News noted this is the second time Unilever has recalled a product out of concern for its benzene level. The company recalled two Suave 24-hour protection aerosol antiperspirants in March.
Unilevel found after an interval investigation that the dry shampoos’ propellent was the source of the elevated benzene.
Other major makers of consumer retail products have announced similar recalls in recent years. In December 2021, Proctor & Gamble voluntarily recalled 32 aerosol products including deodorants and dry shampoos from brands like Pantene, Herbal Essences, and Old Spice due to high benzene content.