Dry shampoo recall: What is benzene, the chemical of concern?


Health Canada issued a mass recall on Tuesday of Unilever hair merchandise containing the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

This time, the listed merchandise have been dry shampoos offered over the final two years by Unilever manufacturers Bed Head TIGI, Dove and Tresemmé. But different hair and pores and skin merchandise have additionally been topic to remembers in recent times resulting from the presence of benzene.

Most not too long ago, Edgewell Personal Care Company issued a voluntary recall of its Banana Boat scalp and hair sunscreens containing benzene in July. In April, the U.S. Food and Drug administration issued a recall of a number of Disney-branded hand sanitizers over the identical chemical. Benzene additionally led to the recall of a number of Procter & Gamble Company spray antiperspirants in 2021.

Benzene is a petrochemical usually present in car emissions. So why is it typically present in dry shampoos, hand sanitizers and aerosol sunscreen, and what are the dangers to customers’ well being?

To higher perceive, CTVNews.ca takes a have a look at what benzene is and the way it’s utilized in manufacturing.


Benzene is a transparent liquid chemical present in gasoline. It’s additionally utilized in the synthesis of different chemical compounds and as a solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. It’s a pure element of crude oil, and is produced by each pure and human-made processes.

Although liquid at room temperature, it evaporates and turns into gaseous in a short time. For that purpose, most people are uncovered to it via the air they breathe. It may also be absorbed via pores and skin contact. According to Health Canada, car emissions are the main supply of benzene launched into the surroundings, however different sources embrace cigarette smoke and emissions from volcanoes and forest fires.


Paul Demers has spent years of his profession finding out the results of dangerous chemical compounds like benzene on human well being.

Demers is director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, a senior scientist with Ontario Health and a professor with the occupational and environmental well being division of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

While publicity to excessive ranges of benzene could cause short-term signs equivalent to anemia, recollection loss, pores and skin irritation and even unconsciousness, Demers mentioned benzene is additionally categorized as a carcinogen – a cancer-causing agent.

“It’s not an unusual factor to come across on the market,” Demers mentioned in a cellphone interview with CTVNews.ca on Thursday. “The downside is, we have identified it is a trigger of most cancers since round 1979 or 1980. So (for) over 40 years it has been categorized as a human carcinogen internationally.”

Health Canada warns publicity to benzene may end up in cancers together with leukemia and blood most cancers of the bone marrow, in addition to different doubtlessly life-threatening blood problems.

The company wrote in its recall discover on Tuesday that the focus of benzene present in the affected shampoos “wouldn’t be anticipated to trigger opposed well being penalties,” however Demers mentioned there’s purpose to be involved about the cumulative results of even hint quantities of benzene present in private care merchandise.

“When we take into consideration the low ranges in shopper merchandise we’re actually involved about the long-term results that is perhaps in there, and that is why most cancers comes up,” he mentioned. “If it is private care merchandise that you simply’re aiming at your physique, no matter’s in there – even when it is a small quantity – we might in all probability be involved about it.”


Because benzene is launched in combustion and utilized in heavy trade, most harmful publicity to benzene takes place in occupational settings. Firefighters and individuals who work in printing, in factories the place rubber or metal are processed or in fuel stations face some of the highest dangers of office publicity.

As far as Demers is aware of, benzene is not used to provide shopper items equivalent to dry shampoos and conditioners, aerosol sunscreen, antiperspirant or hand sanitizer. But as a result of it is used to make so many different chemical compounds and industrial merchandise, there’s at all times an opportunity of contamination. In the case of the Oct. 18 Unilever recall, an inside investigation discovered the aerosol propellant in the spray cans was the supply of contamination.

That’s why high quality management is such an vital element of manufacturing. When benzene reveals up in a shopper good, Demers mentioned it is seemingly as a result of one thing in the manufacturing or high quality management course of has gone unsuitable.

“It’s a superb factor we take note of shopper merchandise on this approach,” he mentioned. “It looks as if periodically we have got toxic metals exhibiting up in merchandise, or differing kinds of chemical compounds exhibiting up in merchandise, so this is one thing we have at all times bought to be vigilant about.”

For details about what to do should you assume you have bought a recalled product, go to remembers.canada.ca.


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