Dry shampoo recall: Why is carcinogenic benzene in hair products? – National

Cancer experts are calling on companies selling personal care products to increase their vigilance and test for toxic chemicals after a massive recall of dry shampoo in Canada this week.

On Tuesday, Unilever and Health Canada announced a recall that included more than 1.5 million dry shampoos made by Dove, Bed Head and Tresemmé due to the detection of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.

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This isn’t the first time benzene has been detected in personal care products, such as dry shampoos, deodorants and aerosol sunscreens in Canada, prompting a safety recall.

As of December 2021, more than 800,000 units of dry shampoos and aerosol conditioners from Herbal Essence and Pantene were also recalled for benzene detection.

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Also in November last year, around 1.4 million units of Old Spice and Secret antiperspirants were part of another benzene-related recall.


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In fact, in the past two years, at least 12 recalls have been linked to aerosol products and high levels of benzene, according to Health Canada records.

Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Center and professor at the University of Toronto, said it was worrying to see the trend.

“It’s not something that’s supposed to end up in personal care products,” he said. “It’s just bad production to do that.

“You definitely don’t want to spray it on your body or get it in your hair.”

Here’s what you need to know.

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Benzene is an odorous, colorless or light yellow liquid chemical.

The toxic and highly flammable chemical is formed naturally and through human activities.

Benzene is used to produce other chemicals involved in the production of plastics, resins, nylon, synthetic fibers, as well as lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

In Canada, ambient and indoor air is the main source of human exposure to benzene.

In the United States, benzene is widely used and ranks in the top 20 chemicals by production volume, according to the CDC.


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Why was benzene detected in dry shampoo?

Ivan Litvinov, dermatologist and cancer research program scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC), said he was not surprised by the recent recall.

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His own research found that benzene contamination is nothing new, and the chemical is known to have contaminated many personal care products in recent years.

“Benzene is unavoidable and we are exposed to it whether we like it or not,” he said.

The recalled products were distributed nationwide in Canada through retail outlets and online.


Photo courtesy: Health Canada


Unilever Canada said it does not use benzene as an ingredient in its products.

In a statement announcing the recall, the distributor said an internal investigation identified the aerosol propellant as the source of “potentially high levels of benzene” in several lots of dry shampoos.

Litvinov said where the raw materials come from and the production process could be the source of high levels of benzene.

“We think it’s raw material contamination…because the benzene isn’t really inherent in the product itself.”

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Benzene is a carcinogen, and exposure to the chemical by inhalation or absorption, through the mouth or through the skin, can lead to leukemia, bone marrow blood cancer and life-threatening blood disorders, according to Health. Canada.

However, “daily exposure to benzene in recalled products at levels detected in testing is not expected to result in adverse health consequences,” the agency said.

Demers said the risk of benzene exposure from hair product use was not a major concern.

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“It’s not something I would worry about having used the hairspray multiple times or even for a few weeks or months,” he told Global News on Friday.

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Short-term effects associated with high benzene levels include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches or even loss of consciousness, Demers said.

While years of exposure to low levels of benzene can cause leukaemia, he warned.


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Additionally, it’s possible that thrombocytopenia and various immune diseases are also linked to benzene exposure, Litvinov said.

He said that while the overall risk from shampoo use may be low, “there is no such thing as a safe exposure to benzene.”

Health Canada has urged consumers to immediately stop using the recalled products and dispose of them according to package instructions.

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