Shampoo & Conditioner Benzene Recall

Procter & Gamble issued a recall of 30 dry conditioners and shampoos because these products may contain benzene, a cancer-causing chemical P&G recalled aerosol spray products will familiar names such as Aussie, Pantene, Herbal Essence, and Waterless. dry shampoo products from Old Spice and Hair Food.

The products were made by Proctor & Gamble and distributed nationwide through online sales like Amazon and through traditional retailers.

Is this a big deal or a little deal?  Is the Benzene risk real?  This post talks about the recall and what it means.

How Do You Figure Out If Your Product Was in the Recall?

These aerosol cans and contain a production code. Those codes are found on the FDA’s list of recalled products. So it is not hard to figure out whether you used the recalled product.

What Is the Deal with Benzene?

The World Health Organization classifies Benzene as a human carcinogen.   Benzene exposure may cause leukemia and other blood disorders. Benzene exposure can come via ingestion,  inhalation, or through the skin.  The amount of benzene in a product that poses a problem to users depends upon the type of use.

Benzene is a volatile, colorless, highly flammable liquid that is slightly soluble in water.  Benzene is produced by human activity but it is also produced naturally.

Benzene was first discovered and isolated from coal tar in the 1800s. Now, benzene is mostly refined from the oil and gas, and plastics industries.  Benzene ranks in the top 20 in production volume for chemicals produced in the United States. Benzene is used to make styrene and other plastics. Benzene is also used as an additive in gasoline to prevent vehicle engines from knocking.

Why Does Benzene Cause Blood Related Injuries?

Benzene is toxic to the blood and blood-forming organs. Benzene has long been known to cause blood diseases that resulted from heavy occupational exposure to benzene. The diseases reported included leukopenia (low white blood cell counts), anemia (low red blood cell counts), thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), and pancytopenia (decrease in all blood counts), and aplastic anemia (anemia without blast, i.e., cancer, cells).

So one of the big risks with Benzene exposure is hematopoietic cancers. These are liquid tumors that cause different types of leukemia.

Why Do These Proctor & Gamble Products Contain Benzene?

This is not a case where the company made poor choices as to what ingredients to include in its product.  Benzene is not an ingredient in these recalled products.  The Benzene comes from the propellant that sprays the aerosol out of the can.

P&G Cancer-Causing Recalls

Last month, P&G recalled 18 Old Spice and Secret aerosol spray antiperspirants. An Old Spice Pure Sport sample has, by one account from Valisure, an independent lab at the forefront of finding cancer contaminants in consumer drugs and products, an average benzene concentration of almost 18 parts per million.  These high Benzene levels in P&G products have led to at least 17 benzene lawsuits filed against P&G alleging these products’ Benzene levels caused an injury.

If I Used These Benzene Products, Am I at Risk?

How much risk these products pose is the subject of great debate.  Some believe that Benzene is ubiquitous and the risk of cancer or blood disorders from the Benzene levels in these P&G products is minimal. That being said, however, there is no dispute that benzene is a harmful chemical and exposure to certain levels of benzene over a prolonged time period has been definitively linked to cancer. The scientific evidence linking benzene exposure to leukemia is particularly strong.

P&G has already taken the position that the benzene levels in the recalled products were not high enough to be considered a health risk to users, at least based on standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, this leads to the obvious question of why P&G felt it was necessary to issue a sweeping national recall of these products?

Lawsuits Over Recalled Shampoo & Conditioner

P&G’s recall of various dry conditioner and shampoo products could potentially lead to lawsuits, but at this point, those lawsuits will likely be limited to consumer class action claims rather than personal injury lawsuits alleging cancer. The comparatively low levels of benzene in the recalled products and the lack of any study linking the use of the recalled products to higher rates of leukemia or another type of cancer make it very unlikely that this recall will develop into a big mass tort.

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