Sun Bum, Paul Mitchell, and Batiste, leading manufacturers of dry shampoos, are facing proposed class action lawsuits following reports of dangerously high benzene levels in some of their products. Benzene is a widely recognized carcinogenic impurity, linked with leukemia and other forms of cancer.
S.C. Johnson & Son, Sun Bum’s parent company, along with John Paul Mitchell Systems and Church & Dwight Co., the manufacturers of Batiste, are all implicated in these lawsuits. The lawsuits claim that the presence of benzene in these companies’ aerosol dry shampoos renders the products adulterated and misbranded, making their sale illegal under both federal and state law.
The lawsuits specifically mention products such as Sun Bum Beach Formula Dry Shampoo, Paul Mitchell Invisiblewear Brunette Dry Shampoo, and 13 varieties of Batiste dry shampoos. The presence of benzene in these products is particularly alarming given that dry shampoo is typically used in large volumes, applied directly to the scalp and hair, and predominantly used indoors, enhancing the potential for short- and long-term inhalation.
The lawsuits emphasize that benzene is not mentioned among the active or inactive ingredients listed on product labels. Benzene is a component of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke and poses a significant health hazard. The complaints assert that the defendants have either misrepresented their products as being benzene-free or failed to disclose the presence of benzene. Moreover, If the defendants had met their quality assurance obligations, they would have identified the benzene contamination promptly. Also, if the defendants had adequately tested for benzene and other toxins, they would have discovered that their products contained benzene levels above the FDA’s limit.
The class action complaints outline that aerosol products such as dry shampoos rely on the expulsion of contents from their container using liquified or compressed gas. Common aerosol propellants for consumer items include butane, isobutane, and propane, typically derived from crude oil in oil refineries. These refineries also produce other volatile hydrocarbons like benzene, which leads to the risk of product contamination.
On October 31, 2022, Valisure, an independent laboratory, submitted a citizen petition to the FDA detailing its detection of high benzene levels in specific batches of certain dry shampoo products. Of the 148 batches from 34 brands tested, Valisure found that 70 percent, including Sun Bum, Paul Mitchell, and Batiste dry shampoos, contained benzene.
While the FDA allows for up to two parts per million (ppm) of benzene in certain drug products if its use is unavoidable, the benzene levels in the defendants’ products far exceed this limit. The lawsuits argue that the dry shampoos need not contain any benzene at all. Valisure further contends that any significant detection of benzene in these dry shampoos, which contain no active pharmaceutical ingredient for therapeutic purposes, could be deemed unacceptable.
The class action lawsuits aim to represent consumers nationwide who bought the allegedly contaminated Sun Bum, Paul Mitchell, or Batiste dry shampoos for personal or household use, not for resale. These lawsuits underscore the importance of manufacturers’ responsibility to maintain product safety, transparency, and legal compliance.
Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical at room temperature. It has a sweet smell and is highly flammable. Benzene is used in the manufacture of a wide range of products, including plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber, dyes, detergents, drugs, pesticides, and, now we know, dry shampoos. It’s also a natural component of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
Exposure to benzene carries several health risks, including:
- Acute Effects: Short-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause dizziness, confusion, headache, tremors, unconsciousness, and even death in severe cases. Inhalation or ingestion of benzene can lead to irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.
- Chronic Effects: Long-term exposure to benzene can affect the bone marrow, leading to anemia and a decrease in blood platelets, which can result in excessive bleeding. It can also cause a weakened immune system, increasing the risk of infection.
- Cancer Risk: Benzene is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), meaning that there’s sufficient evidence that it can cause cancer in humans. This is big issue in the Camp Lejeune litigation as well. Long-term exposure to benzene has been linked to leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some studies have also suggested a potential link between benzene exposure and other forms of cancer, such as lung and bladder cancer.
Benzene exposure can occur in several ways, including inhaling contaminated air, consuming contaminated food or water, or through skin contact with benzene-containing products. Certain occupations, such as those in the petroleum, rubber, chemical, and shoe manufacturing industries, may have higher exposure to benzene.
Given the serious health risks associated with benzene, its use is highly regulated, and alternatives are often sought in product manufacturing. Moreover, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set strict permissible exposure limits for benzene in the workplace. However, no level of benzene exposure is considered completely safe, and efforts should always be made to minimize contact with this substance.
If a product contains benzene, it is considered adulterated and misbranded. Benzene is a toxic and harmful substance linked to cancer and is dangerous in any quantity. If the product was manufactured unsanitarily leading to benzene contamination, it becomes adulterated. If the product’s labeling fails to disclose the presence of benzene or doesn’t list “benzene” as an ingredient, and if a warning about benzene is needed to prevent health hazards, the product is considered “misbranded”.
The defendants named in the dry shampoo benzene lawsuits include some of the leading manufacturers of hair care products in the U.S.
Sun Bum is a lifestyle brand founded in 2010 in Florida, USA. The company’s mission is to protect those who live and love in the sun. Their products are inspired by the beach, embodying a laid-back, sun-soaked lifestyle. Sun Bum primarily offers a range of sun care products, including sunscreens, lip balms, hair care products, including dry shampoos, and lotions. They are known for their products’ quality – notwithstanding the benzene – which are often infused with tropical scents.
Paul Mitchell is a renowned professional hair care brand founded in 1980 by John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell, the latter being a famous hairstylist. The brand offers a diverse range of hair care products and styling tools, including shampoos, conditioners, hair treatments, styling products, and hair color products. It’s recognized for its commitment to professional hairdressers and stylists, offering them a system of high-quality, salon-only products. Paul Mitchell is also known for its social and environmental commitment, pioneering cruelty-free product testing in the beauty industry.
Batiste is a well-known British hair care brand, particularly famous for its dry shampoo products. Founded in the 1970s, Batiste has the sharpest focus of the three on dry shampoos, seeking to offer a quick and convenient way to feel they have fresh-looking and feeling hair using a dry shampoo. The brand provides a range of dry shampoos for different hair types and colors and has expanded to various fragrances and sizes. Batiste’s products are said to have the ability to refresh hair between washes, adding body and texture.