What the discovery of a carcinogenic chemical means to you – CBS Sacramento

(CNN) – Benzene, a known carcinogenic chemical, has been found in more than half of 108 batches of antiperspirant and deodorant body sprays from 30 different brands, according to a citizens’ petition filed this month with the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Benzene should not be used in the manufacture of drug substances or products because it is a Class 1 solvent with “unacceptable toxicity,” according to the FDA.

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However, the FDA has cleared the “temporary” use of benzene in liquid hand sanitizers during the pandemic, setting the upper limit at 2 parts per million.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set a much lower limit – 5 parts per billion (ppb) – for exposure to benzene in drinking water. The agency also set a “target of 0 ppb for benzene in drinking water and in water such as rivers and lakes, because benzene can cause leukemia.”

Last week, “in an abundance of caution,” maker Procter & Gamble voluntarily pulled 17 different types of Old Spice and Secret antiperspirant from shelves, according to a press release.

A number of other brands have yet to be recalled, including lots of Tag, Sure, Equate, Suave, Right Guard and Brut that had benzene levels of 2 parts per million or more, David said. Light, CEO and founder of Valisure, the independent lab that performed the tests and filed the petition.

Additional lots of antiperspirants and deodorants, which Valisure says have been tested at levels up to 2 parts per million, include products made by Summer’s Eve, Right Guard, Power Stick, Soft & Dri and Victoria’s Secret. . To date, CNN has not been able to verify that any of these products, with the exception of Old Spice and Secret, have been recalled following Valisure’s request to do so at the FDA in early November.

CNN has contacted all of these companies for a response. The Village Company, which makes Soft & Dri, declined to comment. Unilever, which makes Suave, told CNN in an email, “Unilever takes all safety concerns seriously and we are fully investigating the Valisure petition’s claims regarding two Suave antiperspirant sprays. “

CNN did not receive a response from the rest of the brands before the publication, but the Personal Care Products Council, an industry association that represents 600 consumer product companies, issued the statement.

“Benzene is not an intentionally added ingredient in body spray products; However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as product manufacturers, are aware that it can be present in food and pharmaceutical products at very low levels, ”the PCPC wrote.

“The PCPC and its member companies are firmly committed to ensuring that consumers have access to cosmetics and personal care products that contain ingredients that have been thoroughly tested for safety and meet the requirements of the law,” the statement said. . “Businesses and individuals have a legal responsibility to ensure that their products and ingredients are safe for the intended use. “

Elevated Benzene Levels Detected

Benzene is created by both natural and man-made processes. The chemical, which can cause cells in the body to not function properly, is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is also used to make a variety of “plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides,” according to the American Cancer Society.

Exposure can be dangerous, increasing the “risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders,” said the National Cancer Institute.

Exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can be fatal, and if “you spill benzene on your skin it can cause redness and sores,” according to the Agency for the Registry of Toxic Substances and diseases (ATSDR). “Benzene in your eyes can cause general irritation and damage to your cornea. “

In its recall, P&G said it had no reports of adverse effects, adding that “daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at levels detected in our tests should not have adverse health consequences.”

Valisure’s testing, however, revealed levels of benzene in some lots of P&G products. The most heavily contaminated – two lots of an Old Spice antiperspirant called Pure Sport (lots 11671458SQ and 11671458SB; UPC 012044001912) – contained an average of 17.7 and 17.4 parts per million of benzene, said Valisure CEO David Light.

“This is almost nine times the upper limit of 2 parts per million that the FDA has set for emergency use,” Light said.

Tests showed that Secret Powder Fresh, 24 HR Aerosol (lots 11721458SG and 11701458SH; UPC 037000711087) contained approximately 16 parts per million on average.

“With aerosols, you could use it every day, probably in an enclosed space like a bathroom,” Light said.

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The company tested the product with the highest levels of benzene (Old Spice Pure Sport with 17.7 ppm) in an enclosed bathroom, spraying once under each arm just like a consumer would. By doing this, you “could bring the whole bathroom air to 15 times the limit of what the EPA said is an increased risk for leukemia,” Light said.

How does the product become contaminated?

Across testing, benzene levels varied considerably from lot to lot, even within a single brand, Valisure noted, while the initial analysis of at least a sample of 49 lots of body sprays from 19 different brands showed no benzene.

In total, “24 lots of body sprays from 8 different brands contained between 2.24 and 17.7 ppm benzene; 14 lots of 8 brands contained detectable benzene between 0.20 and 1.89 ppm; and 21 lots of 8 brands contained benzene detectable at

None of the products have benzene as an ingredient, experts say, so the only way the chemical could have been introduced is through an error in the manufacturing process – or the way the chemical is delivered to the body.

Valisure said one possibility is that the benzene could come from ingredients such as the 152a hydrofluorocarbon, butane, isobutane, propane and alcohol used to propel the sprays on the skin.

“Our investigation showed that traces of benzene came from the propellant that sprays the product out of the box,” said Kate DiCarlo, senior director of communications for P & G’s personal care portfolio.

“Due to the highly specialized nature of aerosol products, we use a manufacturing partner to manufacture these products,” Dicarlo continued. “This manufacturing partner has identified a problem with its propellant supply and is implementing additional measures to resolve the problem identified in the investigation.

“Once the recall is complete, we prepare to ship a new product that meets our quality standards to restock the shelves. “

Other products with benzene

Avoiding propellants in spray products the answer to risk reduction? Maybe, say the experts. However, Valisure also found higher levels of benzene in non-aerosol body odor products, including powders and sticks, Light said.

“I think there is good evidence that propellants are a significant source of this contamination, but there are also a variety of potential sources in the raw materials used to create the products,” Light said.

“Impurities can be present in the manufacturing environment due to the use of certain chemicals, equipment or containers. We need more testing, ”said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental and consumer health group.

“We need independent analysis as part of the overall supply chain. Finding these issues before they hit the shelves is really extremely important, ”added Light.

Benzene has also been found in other consumer products. The FDA has urged consumers not to use certain hand sanitizers at the start of the pandemic due to high solvent levels, and this summer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) voluntarily withdrew four brands of Neutrogena sunscreen and one d ‘Aveeno after Valisure’s lab found alarming levels of benzene. and filed a petition with the FDA.

CVS Health and Coppertone have also voluntarily stopped selling several sunscreen or after-sun care products due to similar findings. But Light said that to his knowledge, other sunscreens and after-sun cosmetics, which have also tested positive for the toxin, remain on the market.

“There is no safe level of benzene that can exist in sunscreen products,” Dr. Christopher Bunick, associate professor of dermatology at Yale University, said in a press release at the time. . “Even the 0.1 ppm (parts per million) benzene in sunscreen could expose people to excessively high nanogram amounts of benzene.”

However, the vast majority of sunscreens tested did not contain benzene, and experts stress the importance of using sunscreens to protect skin from aging and the carcinogenic effects of the sun.

The sunscreens tested by Valisure represented only a small sample of the more than 11,000 registered sun protection products on the market.

In response to Valisure’s sunscreen petition, the FDA told CNN that it is “evaluating and evaluating the information provided in such citizen petitions and generally initiating an independent testing and verification process.”

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