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Plaintiff Lawyers Gear Up for Litigation After Unilever Recalls Dry Shampoos

Unilever, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, recently recalled an assortment of aerosol dry shampoos which may contain elevated benzene levels. 

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Written by
— Updated on November 22, 2022

Plaintiff Lawyers Gear Up for Litigation After Unilever Recalls Dry Shampoos

The list of at-risk products for cancer-causing benzene presence includes specific lots of widely-used Dove, Bedhead, Bedhead Rockaholic, Nexxus, Suave, and TRESemmé aerosol dry shampoos.

Plaintiff lawyers will need research and expert resources to prevail in the likely onslaught of litigation against Unilever for injuries suffered from the use of these products.

Recalled Shampoo Products

On October 18, 2022, Unilever issued a voluntary product recall announcement. Unilever recalled 19 dry shampoo products. Initially, the company distributed these products across the United States in retail stores. However, Unilever instructed the retailers to remove the products from their shelves so that consumers can no longer purchase them. Likewise, Unilever told consumers to stop using the products. Consumers can seek reimbursement for eligible products via a Unilever website.

Unilever identified the scope of the recall by providing a list of the brands and affected products and their Universal Product Codes. The list included products such as:

  • Dove Dry Shampoo Volume and Fullness
  • Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh Coconut
  • Dove Dry Shampoo Go Active
  • Nexxus Inergy Foam Shampoo
  • Suave Dry Shampoo Hair Refresher
  • Tresemme Dry Shampoo Volumizing
  • Bed Head Oh Bee Hive Dry Shampoo

Unilever Testing Finds Benzene in Dry Shampoos

Unilever announced that the products may have elevated levels of benzene. The culprit seems to be the propellant used in the aerosol spray of dry shampoos. The company has stated that the propellant is the source of the benzene. Unilever also added that it is working with its propellant suppliers to address this issue.

In the recall, the company states that “benzene is classified as a human carcinogen.” Unilever further informed the public that “exposure to benzene can occur by inhalation, orally, and through the skin and it can result in cancers including leukemia and blood cancer of the bone marrow and blood disorders which can be life-threatening.”

However, Unilever says daily exposure to the benzene levels found in the products in their testing would not be expected to cause health problems. The company also added that the recall is simply out of an abundance of caution.

Impact of Benzene Exposure and Toxicity

Benzene is both a manmade and naturally-produced chemical. A component of crude oil is the main source of benzene production. A colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical at room temperature, benzene is a solvent with many uses in commonly used products.

The American Cancer Society (ACS), along with a litany of expert organizations, has found that benzene causes cancer in people. There are significant documented scientific links between benzene exposure and humans suffering from leukemia and other blood cell cancers. Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. There are many different types of this cancer. The bone marrow in people with leukemia produces abnormal (leukemic) blood cells. The bad cells crowd out healthy blood cells which can result in infections, anemia, and excessive bleeding. Leukemic cells often travel throughout the body and interfere with organ function, including reproductive organs.

Exposure to this potentially dangerous chemical can cause short-term and long-term health effects. A person’s nervous system can suffer from inhalation of high doses of benzene. Tremors, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and/or unconsciousness can result. In extreme cases, inhaling very high levels of benzene can result in death. Exposure of skin to benzene can cause redness and blistering.

The ACS estimates that 24,000 people will die from leukemia in 2022.

Skyrocketed Benzene Levels in Unnamed Dry Shampoos

A few weeks after the Unilever Recall, a New Haven, CT independent lab found that 70% of the dry shampoos in 34 brands that they tested contained benzene.  The study did not reveal the brands they evaluated. However, the bombshell in the study was that the researchers found benzene levels as high as 340 parts per million in 10 seconds of spray. This compares to the acceptable benzene level of two parts per million identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

On October 31, 2022, the independent lab sent the FDA a petition outlining its findings and requesting that the agency ask for a recall of dry shampoos identified as tainted with benzene. Watch for more aerosol dry shampoo recalls by manufacturers beyond Unilever.

Recalled Dry Shampoo Litigation Likely to Come

Consumer product recalls of products with potentially harmful human effects often spawn litigation. The Unilever dry shampoo recall will no doubt follow this trend. Users of Unilever dry shampoos that are suffering from forms of leukemia deserve their day in court to prove that benzene in the products caused their disease.

Unilever’s pointing of a finger at their aerosol propellant suppliers gives a glimpse of one likely defense.

Expert Institute’s Research Library

Lawyers who lead any dry shampoo lawsuits will want to leverage the Expert Institute’s Research Library. The archive makes extensive medical-legal benzene exposure research available to attorneys that want to conduct efficient research for their benzene cases.

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