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Old Spice, Secret Deodorants Recalled Over Cancer Risk

Elevated levels of benzene detected in some sprays

closeup of woman using underarm deodorant spray

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A variety of Old Spice and Secret brand aerosol sprays were voluntarily recalled after the manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, found the presence of a cancer-causing chemical, benzene, in some of its products.

Daily exposure to benzene in the recalled sprays at the levels detected are not expected to cause adverse health consequences based on cancer risk assessments by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said P&G's recall statement. However, age and preexisting medical conditions can play a factor in benzene exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The recalled products were sold nationwide as antiperspirants and hygiene products in aerosol cans. The following items with expiration dates through September 2023 were recalled:

  • Old Spice High Endurance AP Spray Pure Sport
  • Old Spice Hardest Working Collection Spray Stronger Swagger
  • Old Spice Hardest Working Collection Spray Pure Sport Plus
  • Old Spice Hardest Working Collection Spray Stronger Swagger
  • Old Spice Hardest Working Collection Spray Ultimate Captain
  • Old Spice Below Deck Powder Spray Unscented
  • Old Spice Below Deck Powder Spray Fresh Air
  • Secret Aerosol Powder Fresh Twin Pack
  • Secret Aerosol Powder Fresh
  • Secret Fresh Collection Spray Waterlily
  • Secret Fresh Collection Spray Lavender
  • Secret Fresh Collection Spray Water Lily
  • Secret Fresh Collection Spray Light Essentials
  • Secret Fresh Collection Spray Rose
  • Secret Outlast Spray Completely Clean
  • Secret Outlast Spray Protecting Powder
  • Old Spice Pure Sport 2021 Gift Set 

Retailers are being notified to remove the recalled products from store shelves. Meanwhile, no other Old Spice or Secret products are impacted by the recall and may still be used.

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Consumers who purchased the recalled sprays should throw them out and may request a refund. Old Spice and Secret customers can apply for a reimbursement on their respective websites.

old spice and secret brand spray deodorants with an active recall are shown

Courtesy Old Spice, Secret

Those with other questions regarding the recall can call P&G at 888-339-7689, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 6 pm ET.

So far, the manufacturer has not received any reports of adverse events related to the recall.

Negative reactions or quality issues resulting from use of the sprays may also be reported to the Food and Drug Administration's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program in the following ways:

  • Complete and submit a report online.
  • Regular mail or fax: Download this form or call 800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the preaddressed form, or submit by fax to 800-332-0178.

In July, low levels of benzene were identified in Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen sprays.

What are the symptoms of benzene poisoning?

Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature that evaporates quickly into the air. Low levels of the chemical may be present in outside air from tobacco smoke, gas stations, vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions. But there are generally higher levels of benzene in indoor environments from products such as glues, paint, furniture wax and detergents, according to CDC.

The severity of benzene poisoning depends on the amount, the way it enters the body and length of time a person is exposed. Age and preexisting medical conditions also play a factor.

Those who inhale high levels of benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes or hours:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death (at very high levels)

Those who experience symptoms of benzene poisoning are advised to go to a hospital as soon as possible.

Long-term health effects from benzene exposure can include harm to the bone marrow and decreased red blood cells, leading to anemia. Women who inhale high levels of the toxin may develop irregular periods and shrink the size of their ovaries.

Exposure to high levels of benzene in the air, over a year or longer, can cause leukemia and cancer of the blood-forming organs.

Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency's Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.