Popular body spray brands are being recalled over concerns of a carcinogen contaminant. This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of certain Old Spray and Secret products by Proctor & Gamble, following the discovery of benzene in certain lots. These sprays are not the only consumer products to be flagged for containing benzene this year.
Benzene is an ubiquitous chemical produced naturally in the environment from things like forest fires. But it’s also widely used as a solvent to produce plastics and other material, and it is commonly found in everyday pollutants such as cigarette smoke. In high levels, it’s acutely toxic, and long-term exposure is thought to raise the risk of blood cancers like leukemia.
Benzene isn’t supposed to be found in antiperspirants, deodorants, sunscreens, and other consumer products, but they can become contaminated since benzene is so widely used in manufacturing. In early November, the private testing lab Valisure sent a citizen’s petition to the FDA, in which they claimed to have found benzene in at least 38 batches of spray products tested, including under-the-arm deodorants as well as more general body sprays. Contaminated brands included Old Spice, Secret, Equate, Suave, Tag, Sure, and Right Guard, though only certain lots of Old Space and Secret are recalled at this time. Only some of the tested batches contained levels above the FDA-allowed threshold.
On Wednesday, Proctor & Gamble voluntarily recalled products singled out by the Valisure report. The nationwide recall covers all affected lots with an expiration date through September 2023, and a full list can be found here. A recall was enacted in Canada as well.
This March, Valisure sent a similar petition to the FDA after they detected benzene in some hand sanitizers, which similarly led to recalls. In May, they reported detecting benzene in many sunscreen and sun care products, which again prompted recalls. And just last month, the FDA warned customers to stay away from a brand of hand sanitizer after discovering benzene in select lots.
If you’ve been using one of these products, no need to panic. Unfortunately, benzene is a common air pollutant that nearly everyone is exposed to regularly. In its risk statement, Proctor & Gamble argued that daily exposure to benzene at the levels they had detected in their testing “would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.” They also say that they haven’t received reports of adverse events related to the recall.
Though the risk might be low, Valisure has pushed for clearer language from the FDA regarding the presence of benzene in these and other contaminated products they’ve tested. Since benzene isn’t meant to be used in the manufacturing of body sprays and other drug or cosmetic products, for instance, they’ve called for the FDA “to clarify that there is no acceptable level of benzene and define a reasonable limit of detection.”