Secret, Old Spice antiperspirants have been recalled after cancer-causing chemical found in the sprays

Deodorant spray against black background
  • Procter & Gamble Co. is recalling 18 kinds of Secret and Old Spice antiperspirant spray.
  • Testing revealed significant levels of the carcinogen benzene in sprays from P&G and other brands.
  • Many of the contaminated batches contained enough benzene to increase cancer risk, according to the EPA.

Procter and Gamble is pulling 18 varieties of Old Spice and Secret antiperspirant sprays from shelves after they were found to contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Valisure, an independent pharmaceutical testing company, discovered traces of the carcinogen benzene in several underarm sprays in a recent investigation. Past inquiries by Valisure have revealed the chemical also lurks in some sunscreen sprays that have since been recalled.

Long-term benzene exposure can cause leukemia and other problems with the immune system, bone marrow, and blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the 108 batches of deodorant and antiperspirant Valisure tested, 59 had detectable levels of benzene. The company has urged the Food and Drug Administration to recall the 38 batches with the highest benzene levels.

P&G was the first company to respond with a voluntary recall of eight Old Spice antiperspirant sprays and 10 Secret sprays. Other brands with contaminated products have not yet taken action.

Contamination seems to be a bad batch issue

Even within brands, benzene levels varied greatly from batch to batch. Old Spice and Secret antiperspirant sprays topped the list with benzene levels nearly nine times the FDA’s recommended restriction of 2 ppm.

A total of 24 batches of body spray from eight brands were found to contain benzene exceeding the FDA’s threshold, which is much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate of what it takes to increase cancer risk.

While the FDA lists benzene as a Class 1 solvent that is too toxic to be used in drug products, the agency allows it in unavoidable cases. However, given that many of the body sprays tested did not have detectable benzene, it is likely avoidable in the manufacturing process.

David Light, CEO of Valisure, told Bloomberg that the contamination may be coming from the raw materials companies use to propel aerosol sprays from a can. Products that contained the propellant butane were most likely to have elevated benzene levels.

Procter & Gamble and the FDA did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.