Tests detect benzene in Old Spice, Secret and other deodorant sprays


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Some batches of antiperspirant and deodorant sprays from brands including Old Spice, Secret, Equate, Suave, Tag, Sure, Right Guard, Brut and more contain unsafe levels of benzene, a carcinogen, according to independent pharmaceutical testing company Valisure. 

Exposure to benzene over a long period can cause problems with the immune system, bone marrow and blood, including cancer in the blood, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last May, Valisure tested sunscreen from brands including Neutrogena and found some batches also contained unsafe amounts of benzene. In response, Johnson & Johnson announced on July 14 that it was voluntarily recalling select Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol spray sunscreens “out of an abundance of caution.” Coppertone, owned by Beiersdorf, issued a similar recall on Sept. 30 for certain aerosol spray sunscreens. 

Benzene is widely used in the US, according to the CDC. It’s used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents and more. However, given that it’s a known carcinogen, the US Food and Drug Administration says the chemical shouldn’t be used in drug products (according to Valisure, antiperspirants are typically regulated as drug products, while deodorants are regulated as cosmetic products). If benzene use is “unavoidable in order to produce a drug product,” levels should be kept to 2 parts per million. Benzene isn’t needed to make sunscreen or antiperspirant and deodorant sprays. 

In a citizen petition, Valisure has asked the FDA to recall 38 batches of body sprays. The company has also asked the FDA to issue guidance for benzene in aerosol body spray products, review current guidance for body spray products and address similar requests. According to the CDC, benzene evaporates into the air very quickly. 

One hundred and eight batches of products from 30 different brands were tested for benzene, per Valisure, and 54% of the batches contained at least some of the chemical. A batch of Old Spice’s Pure Sport antiperspirant contained the most benzene, at 17.7 parts per million.

Brands of antiperspirants and deodorants that were found to contain 2 parts per million of benzene or more can be found in table 2 in Valisure’s petition to the FDA. Antiperspirants and deodorants that were found to have between 0.1 ppm and 2 ppm of benzene can be found in table 3. Most products on the list are for underarm use, but a couple are marketed as body sprays or vaginal sprays. 

If you see your own deodorant or antiperspirant on the list, check the lot number on your product to see if it was tested and whether it’s contaminated. Valisure is asking the FDA to recall products in tables 2 and 3, but the agency hasn’t listed any company recalls at this time. When products are recalled by a company, customers are typically asked to dispose of contaminated products. For aerosol cans, you may need to check your local guidelines for disposal information. 

The FDA didn’t immediately have a comment. High Ridge Brands (Brut, Sure), My Products USA (Tag), Procter & Gamble (Old Spice, Secret), Thriving Brands (Right Guard), Unilever (Suave) and Walmart (Equate) didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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