High Levels of Benzene Found in Dry Shampoos: Understanding the Implications

A recent scientific investigation has revealed concerning levels of a carcinogenic compound, benzene, in numerous dry shampoo products. The study, executed by the Connecticut-based independent laboratory Valisure, discovered benzene in a significant proportion of tested samples, raising alarms about potential health risks. 

Key Points: 

  • Widespread Benzene Contamination: A significant study conducted by Valisure, an independent laboratory in Connecticut, found high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in approximately 70% of the dry shampoo samples tested, spanning 148 batches across 34 different brands. 
  • Health Risks of Benzene: Benzene is linked to serious health issues, particularly affecting blood health. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene can lead to anemia and blood cancers like leukemia, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Major Product Recall: Following the discovery of elevated benzene levels, Unilever recalled 19 aerosol dry shampoo products from popular brands like Dove, Suave, and TRESemmé. The contamination was traced back to the propellant used in the aerosol cans. 
  • Industry Response and Consumer Safety: In response to the findings, Unilever conducted an internal investigation and worked with its propellant suppliers to address the issue. The FDA has advised consumers to either dispose of or return the recalled products and to report any adverse reactions. 
  • Importance of Independent Testing: The situation underscores the critical need for rigorous independent testing in the consumer goods supply chain. The detection of benzene in dry shampoos, alongside previous findings in products like body sprays and hand sanitizers, highlights the role of independent laboratories in ensuring public health and safety. 

Benzene, a chemical with established links to cancer, was detected in about 70% of the samples analyzed by Valisure, encompassing 148 batches from 34 different dry shampoo brands. This discovery followed closely on the heels of a recall by Unilever of 19 aerosol dry shampoo products due to concerns about elevated benzene levels. 

The citizen petition sent by Valisure to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 1st emphasized the seriousness of the findings. Benzene, which can naturally occur in the environment and is used in the production of various products like plastics and dyes, poses significant health risks, particularly with long-term exposure. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that while benzene is found in items like tobacco smoke and gasoline, its major impact is on blood health, potentially leading to anemia or blood cancers like leukemia after prolonged high-level exposure. 

David Light, CEO of Valisure, highlighted the critical nature of these findings, especially considering the typical indoor use of dry shampoos. He stressed the potential for prolonged benzene inhalation in such settings. This discovery adds to a series of concerns raised by Valisure regarding the presence of benzene in consumer products, including body sprays, hand sanitizers, and sunscreens. 

In response to these findings, Unilever United States initiated a recall on October 25th of 19 aerosol dry shampoo products, including popular brands like Dove, Suave, and TRESemmé, produced before October 2021. This decision was made after an internal investigation traced the benzene contamination to the propellant in the aerosol cans. Despite the recall, Unilever maintains that the levels of benzene found in their products are unlikely to cause adverse health effects based on an independent health hazard evaluation. 

The FDA has issued guidance for consumers who may have purchased any of the recalled products, advising them to either dispose of them or return them to the place of purchase. Additionally, the FDA encourages those who have experienced adverse reactions or quality issues with these products to report them through their website. This situation underscores the critical need for rigorous independent testing in the consumer goods supply chain to ensure the safety and health of the public.