Online pharmacy Valisure is warning that spray deodorants may be toxic to consumers — creating big problems and possible litigation threats to companies that aren’t paying attention. Valisure recently tested and detected unsafe levels of benzene, a cancer-causing human carcinogen, in spray antiperspirants and body sprays. This comes after several batches of spray sunscreen and hand sanitizer were found to be contaminated with high levels of benzene earlier this year.
While benzene is naturally occurring in the environment in low levels and people may come into contact with it in their day-to-day activities, at high levels it can be very dangerous. In fact, sustained exposure to high levels of benzene can lead to cancer, which has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to impose guidelines on the allowable levels of benzene in food and drug products. It is no surprise that based on its findings, Valisure has pushed for a recall of the contaminated spray products.
What the latest findings about benzene contamination reveal
Over the summer, high levels of benzene were found in several brands and batches of spray sunscreen — leading to massive recalls by a number of manufacturers. With the addition of spray deodorant, body spray and antifungal spray to the list of product categories affected by benzene contamination, regulators may be looking for a common thread to determine the source of the contamination.
Regulators won’t have far to look. All of these products are aerosols that use some sort of propellant to get the liquid out of the container and into the air in a spray form. Valisure’s latest tests of spray deodorants found that products using the propellant butane were most likely to have high levels of benzene contamination. Both butane and other propellants like propane are gases that come out of the ground, where benzene is found in the highest concentrations. Aerosols that used alcohol as a propellant instead were likely to have much lower levels of benzene present.
Based on these findings, it is likely that if your aerosol products use butane, propane or other propellants originating in the ground, they are at greater risk of being contaminated by benzene. Beyond the risks of harming your consumers, manufacturers whose products are found to be contaminated with benzene could face costly and reputation-damaging recalls, legal action or insurance claims.
How to protect your products from benzene contamination
In the past 18 months, many manufacturers have pivoted quickly to find new suppliers as shortages and supply chain issues disrupted business as usual. However, the need to engage new suppliers to meet steady demand has also put manufacturers at risk of receiving products that do not meet their normal standards. To ensure their products meet FDA guidelines for the presence of harmful contaminants like benzene, manufacturers must prioritize quality control and ensure they are closely monitoring all aspects of their supply chain.
As findings of high levels of benzene have spread from one product category to another, companies that produce, distribute or sell aerosols need to act diligently to ensure the safety of their products. Other aerosols like hair sprays, makeup products such as setting spray, or even cooking sprays may be at risk of benzene contamination. As we shared in a previous blog, companies should act now to ensure rigid quality control and update their recall and crisis plans to prevent a major recall or reputational damage.