Discovery of Benzene in Spray Deodorants May Lead to Recall and Lawsuits

Product safety testing discovered dangerous levels of benzene in several major brands of spray-on deodorant (and body spray).

Benzene is a notorious human carcinogen that has been shown to cause leukemia. Unsafe levels of the carcinogen were found in some of the most popular deodorant brands including Old Spice, Secret, Suave, and Tag.  The FDA has established a benzene limit of 2 ppm in cosmetics. Yet, independent lab tests revealed that some recalled deodorants and antiperspirants had benzene concentrations as high as 9 ppm.

The discovery of benzene in spray-on deodorants could have major ramifications similar to those seen after benzene was found in sunscreen earlier this year. We could see sweeping product recalls before the end of 2021, followed by hundreds of product liability lawsuits against the deodorant manufacturers.

New September 2023 Update: Benzene Lawsuit Involving Sure

A federal judge in New Jersey is allowing a claim alleging benzene found in Sure aerosol deodorant caused his leukemia can proceed against Idelle Labs Ltd.

The decision came after he provided sufficient evidence suggesting the presence of the carcinogen in the products he used. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, claiming that using Sure products from around 1985 to February 2022 caused his leukemia.

The original benzene lawsuits as insufficient but plaintiff’s lawyers drafted a revised version addressed the court’s concerns. This updated lawsuit emphasizes the recall in February 2022 that covered Sure aerosol items expiring by August 2023. It also cited product testing results, which revealed elevated benzene levels in canisters similar to what the plaintiff used.

A lot of people will be watching this case.

Valisure Drug and Product Safety Testing

Valisure is an online pharmacy with an independent research and testing laboratory. Valisure performs its own chemical analysis and testing on various pharmaceutical drugs and consumer health products. Over the last 5 years, Valisure’s product safety testing and analysis have been responsible for a series of groundbreaking consumer safety discoveries.

In 2019, Valisure’s chemical laboratory was the first to discover that the popular heartburn drug Zantac contained toxic levels of the carcinogen NDMA. This prompted a nationwide Zantac recall and thousands of Zantac cancer lawsuits. Earlier this year Valisure product testing was also responsible for discovering benzene in spray-on sunscreen products. This was followed by major sunscreen recalls and a wave of sunscreen product liability lawsuits.

Valisure Testing Finds Benzene in Spray-On Deodorants

On November 4, 2021, Valisure issued a public safety announcement stating that chemical analysis testing found high levels of benzene in several major brands of spray-on deodorant and body spray. The brands found to contain dangerously high levels of benzene included Old Spice, Secret, Suave, and Tag.

The discovery of benzene in spray-on deodorant products is a big deal that could have far-reaching implications. Benzene is a chemical derived Benzene has been a well-known human carcinogen for over 100 years. Benzene is a hydrocarbon found in crude oil. It is currently used in the manufacture of plastics and as an industrial solvent.

There is no dispute that benzene is highly toxic to humans and it is universally recognized as a carcinogen. Clinical studies have definitively linked benzene exposure to leukemia and a host of other adverse health conditions including aplastic anemia. Both the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified benzene as a Group 1 human carcinogen (the most hazardous).

Regular exposure to benzene, even at relatively low levels, has been shown to cause acute myeloid leukemia. There is also evidence suggesting that benzene exposure may cause lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

According to the FDA, the maximum safe level of benzene in any consumer product is 2 parts per million (ppm). The chemical analysis testing by Valisure found that certain brands of spray-on deodorant contained benzene at 8 times the maximum safe level. The 2 brands with the highest benzene levels were Old Spice spray-on deodorant (17 ppm) and Secret (16 ppm). Valisure tested a total of 30 different brands of spray-on deodorants. 11 of the 30 brands contained benzene over the maximum safe level.

Which Spray-On Deodorant and Body Spray Brands Contained Benzene?

The FDA citizens petition filed by Valisure identified a host of major brands of spray-on deodorant, antiperspirant, and body spray products that were found to contain benzene levels above the maximum safe limit. The following brands contained benzene levels at more than twice the maximum safe limit of 2 ppm:

Will We See a Recall of Spray-On Deodorants?

At this point, none of the spray-on deodorant brands found to contain high benzene levels have been recalled. But large scale recalls of these products will probably happen before the end of the year or sooner. Valisure has already filed a citizens petition requesting the FDA to facilitate a safety recall of 11 brands of spray-on deodorant and body spray. The FDA petition cites the results of Valisure’s chemical analysis testing which included over 100 batches of spray-on deodorant products.

Valisure filed a similar citizens petition with the FDA earlier this year after they discovered benzene in spray-on sunscreen products. A month after that petition was filed Johnson & Johnson announced that they were recalling major spray-on sunscreen brands like Neutrogena and Aveeno. The J&J recall came after they performed their chemical testing and confirmed the presence of high benzene levels reported by Valisure.

Benzene Consumer Class Action Settlement

A collective lawsuit was launched against P&G in the Northern District of Ohio’s federal court. The complainants claim that P&G was aware of the benzene presence in its deodorant and antiperspirant items but didn’t inform the public. They further argue that P&G’s lack of consumer warning was due to negligence and a warranty violation.

Following the recalls, several manufacturers of the impacted products faced lawsuits. In May 2022, P&G settled a class-action lawsuit for $8 million. Those who bought the affected items between November 4, 2015, and December 31, 2021, can receive cash or vouchers as part of the settlement.

The agreement did more than just get a few settlement dollars for consumers. The agreement mandated P&G to introduce enhanced testing and oversight measures to guarantee that its deodorant and antiperspirant items are devoid of benzene.

Spray-On Deodorant Lawsuits

The discovery of high benzene levels in Old Spice, Secret, and other major brands of spray-on deodorant and body spray will eventually lead to a wave of product liability lawsuits. There is overwhelming scientific evidence linking benzene exposure to leukemia. Studies have shown that regular benzene exposure over just a 12-month period can cause leukemia.

Spray-on deodorant is something that many people use on a daily basis and there is often brand loyalty with these products. This means that there may be people out there who have used one of the spray-on products with high benzene levels every day for several years.  Any individual who used one of the benzene spray-on brands on a regular basis for at least 12-months and was subsequently diagnosed with leukemia may have a very strong product liability claim against the deodorant manufacturer.

Right now, Valisure’s discovery of benzene in various spray-on deodorant brands has not received much attention from national news outlets. If the FDA petition leads to a product safety recall, however, it will draw significant attention to the Valisure discovery. As more people become aware that their spray-on deodorant may have contained high levels of benzene, we should see a steady stream of new spray-on deodorant lawsuits getting filed across the U.S.



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