A few days ago, Unilever issued a voluntary U.S. Recall of Select Dry Shampoos Due to the Potential Presence of Benzene.
Over the past year, more than 30 aerosolized hair-care products, including dry shampoos and conditioners, have been recalled by Proctor and Gamble, warning that they have high levels of trace benzene. The company also issued a similar recall of more than a dozen Old Spice and Secret-branded aerosol deodorants.
What is benzene?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid that smells sweet and is highly flammable. The agency says it’s one of the top 20 chemicals used in the United States. The American Chemistry Council calls it a “building block” for other chemicals and materials.
According to the CDC, benzene, is found in crude oil. Companies use benzene to make plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers, as well as some lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
Experts say that we are exposed to benzene daily when we breathe, fill our vehicles at the gas station, and it is in cigarettes, detergents, glues, and paints.
So how does benzene end up in your aerosolized spray-on skin and hair care products?
Experts like Chris Cappa, professor of environmental engineering at UC Davis (University of California, Davis), say that butane, a petroleum product, is often found in spray cans. "If the refinement of crude oil is not good", you end up with a gas that contains other components of crude oil, like Benzene.
So what is the issue, benzene is natural, right?
Yes, Benzene is a naturally occurring chemical but a known carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer over time. The FDA says that exposure to benzene can lead to cancers such as leukemia as well as other blood disorders.
High levels of benzene can lead to vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, and convulsions. Direct exposure of benzene to the eyes, skin, or lungs can damage the tissue and lead to irritation. Some women exposed to high levels of benzene had irregular menstrual periods and a decreased size of their ovaries. “It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men", says the CDC.
Click here for the list of recalled products.
Ok, is there an alternative to benzene-contaminated hair care products?
Although a natural chemical that is a by-product of crude oil refinement, benzene is cancer-causing and dangerous. I know that we use these products out of the need for convenience, but you can also create your own. There are more natural ways to clean and condition your hair and prevent armpit odor. I found a couple of DIY dry shampoo recipes, linked below.