British multinational consumer goods company Unilever Inc has issued a voluntary recall of over a dozen aerosol and dry shampoo products due to potentially high "levels of benzene", which can cause life-threatening health disorders.
The affected products were produced before October 2021, and are manufactured under Unilever brands including Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI and TRESemmé, Unilever said in a statement.
The product recall has been initiated in the U.S. and Canada, though Unilever U.S. said the product recall is a cautionary step, though no case of the adverse event has taken place so far.
"Based on an independent health hazard evaluation, daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences. Unilever U.S. is recalling these products out of an abundance of caution. Unilever has received no reports of adverse events to date relating to this recall," says Unilever US.
The recalled products were distributed nationwide in the United States. Retailers in the affected countries have been notified to remove recalled products from shelves. Saying that no other products from Unilever are impacted by the recall, the company said an internal probe identified the "propellant as the source", and Unilever has worked with its propellant suppliers to address this issue.
The affected customers will get reimbursement for the recalled products. "Consumers should stop using the affected aerosol dry shampoo products and visit UnileverRecall.com(Opens in a new window) for instructions on how to receive reimbursement for eligible products," said the FMCG major.
Notably, Benzene is classified as a human carcinogen. Exposure to benzene can occur by inhalation, orally, and through the skin. It can result in cancers, including leukaemia and blood cancer of the bone marrow and blood disorders, which can be life-threatening. However, Benzene is ubiquitous in the environment, and humans around the world have daily exposure to it indoors and outdoors from multiple sources.
Meanwhile, the Indian unit of British FMCG behemoth, Hindustan Unilever, has said that it does not make dry shampoos in India and that no other products from Unilever and markets have been impacted by this recall.
What is benzene and where it's found?
Benzene is a chemical that is a colourless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odour and is highly flammable. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Some industries use benzene to make chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibres. Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
Outdoor air also contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents. The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas.