Hundreds of personal care items in the U.S. have been voluntarily recalled after an independent laboratory found them to be contaminated with benzene, a highly carcinogenic chemical, according to The Guardian.
The lab, Valisure, detected benzene in popular brands of hand sanitizers, sunscreens, deodorants, dry shampoos, conditioners, antiperspirants, deodorants, body sprays and anti-fungal treatments, mainly in aerosol or spray products.
Exposure to high levels of benzene can cause leukemia, decrease red blood cells and cause harmful effects on bone marrow.
Procter & Gamble, Bayer, CVS and Johnson & Johnson have issued voluntary recalls for about 180 products from brands including Brut, Sure, Pantene, Herbal Essences, Old Spice, Secret, Tinactin, Lotrimin, Coppertone, Neutrogena and Aveeno.
Several hand sanitizers were also added to a list of products the U.S. Food & Drug Administration said consumers should not use due to the presence of benzene.
The lab found benzene in 180 of 662 products it tested, or about 27%, and said it believes the chemical compound is probably in more products that have not been tested.
Valisure said the benzene contamination was not present in every batch of the products it tested. In many cases, the chemical compound would be present in some batches but missing in others.
The FDA said contaminated thickening agents, preservatives, spray ethanol or ethanol may be the cause of the benzene contamination.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of benzene as an ingredient in consumer goods in 1978, but federal rules allowed benzene to be used in personal consumer products, even unlisted, in emergency situations or if it provides “significant therapeutic” advantages.