Benzene is a chemical that evaporates easily into air. It occurs naturally in oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke, but it is also used in the manufacture of plastics, dyes, detergents, synthetic fibers, tires, lubricants, and other items. It may also be added to gasoline, increasing the amount of the chemical released through exhaust. Benzene acts as a solvent, a fuel, and a compound that is created as part of the manufacturing process, which is why it can be found in so many manufactured goods.
People are exposed to this chemical through outdoor air pollution and offgassing from furniture and other household goods.
But finding this chemical in personal care products is a new development, and a new source of potential exposure.
Why Is Benzene Exposure Harmful?
Cancer, including leukemia and oral cancer, is one of the most well-known negative long-term effects of benzene exposure. The chemical has also been linked to birth defects, anemia, and neurological problems. In the short-term, exposure to benzene can cause dizziness, nausea, and unconsciousness.
What Personal Products Have Benzene?
Recent independent investigations have shown benzene in shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, and other personal care items. The sample sizes were small in comparison to the vast market of health and beauty items, but the chemical was found in hundreds of aerosol products from multiple manufacturers. Some have been recalled, including Neutrogena sunscreens, Old Spice deodorants, Pantene and Herbal Essences dry shampoos, and Tinactin foot spray. However, many more products that were found to contain benzene have not yet been recalled, even though the FDA has asked manufacturers to test for benzene and recall any products containing the chemical.
Johnson & Johnson blamed the contamination on propellant used by a third-party manufacturing partner, but other companies have not commented on how their products became contaminated and what they are doing to prevent future contamination. And the lack of action on the part of many of the other companies named in the group of benzene-contaminated products is concerning.
Consumers can make choices to use fewer products known to contain benzene, such as rubber, adhesives, and synthetic fabrics, or to wear protective gear when using paint, lacquer, and pesticides. However, when using personal care products that are not known to contain this carcinogen, consumers would not think to take protective measures. That is why exposures like these must be controlled and products containing benzene recalled quickly. Corporations that ignore contamination with cancer-causing chemicals are being willfully negligent and putting their consumers at great health risk. Personal care products are necessary, and consumers must expect that the products available on the shelves are safe.
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