What To Know About Benzene and Cancer Amid Procter & Gamble Shampoo Recall

Procter & Gamble has recalled 32 aerosol haircare products in the United States and Canada after detecting "unexpected levels" of benzene, a potentially cancer-causing chemical.

Newsweek previously reported that P&G wrote in a statement: "Following recent reports that indicated traces of benzene in some aerosol spray products, we began a review of our total portfolio of aerosol products.

"While benzene is not an ingredient in any of our products, our review showed that unexpected levels of benzene came from the propellant that sprays the product out of the can."

The company added that it had detected benzene in aerosol dry shampoo spray products and aerosol dry conditioner spray products. It continued: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the consumers who use our products and the quality of the products we ship."

P&G told Newsweek that affected products included: "aerosol dry shampoo sprays and aerosol dry conditioner sprays from Pantene, Herbal Essences, Aussie and Waterl<ss, in addition to dry shampoos that were previously discontinued by Old Spice and Hair Food."

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies benzene as "carcinogenic to humans." The American Cancer Society said this is based on sufficient evidence that benzene causes acute myeloid leukemia.

The IARC also said there are links between benzene and acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Other organizations that consider benzene to be a known carcinogenic are The National Toxicology Program and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Benzene can also cause other negative health effects. The American Cancer Society said in the short term exposure to high levels of the chemical can result in "drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and/or unconsciousness."

It added that consuming foods or fluids contaminated with high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, and rapid heart rate, adding that in extreme cases, inhaling or swallowing very high levels of benzene can be deadly.

Long-term effects can include a low red blood cell count or anemia, which can cause a person to feel weak and tired.

The American Cancer Society added that long-term benzene exposure can also result in a low white blood cell count, which can lower the body's ability to fight infections and might even be life-threatening, or low blood platelet counts which can lead to excess bruising and bleeding.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature, that has a sweet odor, and is highly flammable.

The chemical, which is produced both naturally and artificially, consists of molecules that are a ring of six carbon atoms, both single and double-bonded together.

This makes it a very stable molecule and provides "branches" that can join a benzene ring to other atoms like hydrogen, or help it become part of larger more complex molecules.

Benzene is one of the most widely used chemicals in U.S. industry with applications in plastics, resins, and nylon, and synthetic fibers, according to the CDC. The chemical is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

Speaking to Newsweek P&G added: "The majority of our portfolio—mousses, hairsprays, liquid shampoos, liquid conditioners, styling products and treatments—including other Pantene, Aussie, Herbal Essences, Hair Food, and Waterl<ss products are not included in the scope of this recall and may continue to be used as intended."

In its public statement, P&G also clarified that it had yet to detect any adverse effects related to the recalled products and that the voluntary recall was the result of "an abundance of caution."

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A stock image shows a product being applied to hair. P&G has recalled 32 aerosol hair products found to contain benzene, a carcinogenic. Getty Images