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Discovery of benzene in hair care products raises new consumer concerns

Benzene, which has been discovered in several consumer products over the past year, has once again forced a voluntary recall. This time, it’s related to dry shampoo and dry conditioner spray products from various household brands.

The recall is precautionary. No adverse reactions have been reported and experts say daily exposure to the chemical at the low levels detected are highly unlikely to cause adverse health consequences. Still, benzene is classified as a human carcinogen and we will no doubt hear more from consumer advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys about this issue.

The frequency of these recalls over the last year — along with the number of affected products — has consumers and regulators asking how benzene is finding its way into deodorants, antiperspirants, hair conditioners and hair sprays.

What is causing benzene contamination?

In a recent blog, we noted the common thread is almost certainly the propellant used to get the liquid out of the container and into the air in a spray form; not the product itself. Simply put, if your aerosol products use butane, propane or other propellants originating in the ground, they are at greater risk of being contaminated by benzene.

It boils down to a supply chain issue for anyone manufacturing products dispensed with an aerosol spray. While knowing the potential source of contamination is important, manufacturers of products in this category — or that share the same aerosol supplier — may face previously unknown risks.

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.

Where do we go from here?

Companies that produce, distribute or sell aerosols need to be extra careful. Products must meet or exceed FDA guidelines for the presence of harmful contaminants, quality control must be prioritized, and recall and crisis plans must be updated to address recalls and lawsuits that attract inevitable publicity. Companies would be wise to diligently monitor industry recalls for signs they might be next, as well as closely review past recalls to ensure they are ready if regulators and lawyers do come knocking on the door.

For support and guidance on preparing for an incident of this nature, contact our experts or click here to discover how we have helped a leading consumer product brand to successfully navigate the complexities of a benzene related recall.

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