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There’s a Nationwide Secret and Old Spice Spray Recall for Chemical Concerns

Self logo Self 12/1/2021 Colleen Stinchcombe
© Paul Campbell /Getty Images

The Procter & Gamble Company has issued a nationwide voluntary recall for several varieties of Old Spice and Secret aerosol sprays with expiration dates running through September 2023 after the known carcinogen benzene was discovered in some of their products.

“The affected products are used as antiperspirants and hygiene products and are packaged in aerosol cans,” the company said in a statement that details which products have been recalled. If you or a loved one uses any of the affected products, throw them away and visit www.oldspice.com or www.secret.com for information on how to get a refund. 

Benzene is created both naturally and by human activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s formed in fires and volcanoes and occurs within gasoline, cigarette smoke, and crude oil. But it’s also widely used in industrial processes—it’s one of the top 20 chemicals used by production volume—when manufacturing plastics, resin, synthetic fibers, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. This means that you probably have some benzene exposure in your regular day-to-day lives regardless of whether a product you use is on this recall list.

Benzene is a known carcinogen, but that doesn’t mean that by using one of these products you’ll automatically get cancer (or have a markedly higher risk of developing the disease). “Based on exposure modeling and the cancer risk assessments published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (IRIS database), daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences,” according to The Procter & Gamble Company’s statement. “To date, The Procter & Gamble Company has not received any reports of adverse events related to this recall and is conducting this recall out of an abundance of caution.”

The concerns about benzene are mainly about exposure to large amounts of it. In the short term, people who inhale large quantities of benzene can experience drowsiness and dizziness, changes to their heartbeat, headaches, tremors, confusion, and even death when it’s inhaled in extremely high amounts, the CDC explains. If a large amount of benzene is ingested (through eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages), it can lead to vomiting, convulsions, irregular heartbeat, or death (again, at very high levels).

Over time, benzene can make it difficult for bone marrow to produce red blood cells, and it can damage the immune system, increase bleeding, and increase infection rates. Long-term exposure to high amounts of benzene in the air is known to cause leukemia.

The chemical was found in the Procter & Gamble Company products by an independent pharmaceutical testing company, Valisure, which made a Citizen’s Petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have the products recalled. During their testing, they found benzene in rates as high as 17.7 parts per million (ppm)—much higher than the FDA’s limit of 2 ppm.

Valisure found other products that contained benzene in rates higher than 2 ppm too, including sprays from Tag, Suave, Equate, Sure, Right Guard, and Brut, though rates were highest among specific Secret and Old Spice batches. So far, recalls have not been issued for the other brands.

It’s not the first time benzene has shown up in topical products. As SELF previously reported, Neutrogena and Aveeno recalled several batches of sunscreen in July.

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