Warning against using dry shampoos after major recall in US over concerns about carcinogen contamination

An independent laboratory in the US has raised alarm about the safety of some personal care products after finding certain dry shampoos contain levels of benzene up to 170 times the FDA-imposed limit of two parts per million. Previously, it found benzene in hand sanitiser, body sprays and spray-on sunblock. Consumers in South Africa have reason to be concerned.
It’s known to be found in cigarette smoke and petrol fumes. It has an industrial application, used to manufacture plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, detergents and pesticides. And it’s produced naturally by fires.
But it’s also finding its way into dry shampoos — used as a quick fix between hair washes — hand sanitisers, body sprays, deodorant, bottled water and, ironically, because it’s a known carcinogen, even in sunscreen.
Depending on the amount, route and length of exposure, compounded by age and other medical risk factors, benzene is creeping into consumer products — some at levels the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has characterised as “life-threatening”.
Why worry?
Aerosol consumer products use propellants that are derived from fossil fuels, and while product labels will never stipulate “benzene” — as manufacturers would not willingly add benzene to products as an ingredient — contamination is a growing concern.
This taint is likely due to the presence of inactive petroleum-derived ingredients such as propane, isopropane, butane or polyacrylic acid. The benzene could also come from ethanol produced without adequate purity control.
On 18 October, Unilever issued a major recall of 19 popular dry shampoo aerosol products in the US and Canada after detecting elevated levels of benzene, citing an “abundance of caution”.
The products included popular brands such as Dove, Bed Head and TRESemmé.
Now, an independent laboratory in the US, known for its consumer activism, tested and detected high levels of benzene in several brands and batches of dry shampoo products — some with levels of up to 170 times the FDA limit.
The analysis of 148 batches of dry shampoo spray from 34 companies found that 70% contained quantifiable levels of benzene, and 11 samples tested by Valisure showed above 10 times the FDA limit.
Valisure is demanding that the contaminated batches be recalled and for the FDA to better define limits for benzene contamination in cosmetics and other regulated products.
Exposure to benzene, which is classified as a human carcinogen, can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO agency, says benzene exposure causes acute myeloid leukaemia. ...