Recalled P&G Deodorants Contained Carcinogens, Suit Claims

A proposed class action slammed Procter & Gamble Co. for failing to keep carcinogenic chemicals out of several since-recalled spray deodorants and failing to warn customers of the contamination..

Proposed lead plaintiff Lindsey LaBella claims P&G should have known the products it recalled in November, including several Secret and Old Spice brand spray deodorants and antiperspirants, included levels of benzene higher than the 2 parts per million threshold allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but failed to warn consumers and downplayed the health risks during the recall.

The suit makes claims for breach of warranty, fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and violation of Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law on behalf of a proposed class of all purchasers of the recalled products in the Keystone State and nationwide.

Consumer-protection testing lab Valisure detected higher-than-allowed benzene concentrations in a total of 16 spray deodorant and antiperspirant products it tested, including P&G’s Powder Fresh or Secret Cool Light & Airy Smooth Feel sprays, Old Spice Below Deck and Old Spice Sweat Defense.

Though the lawsuit says the FDA’s limit on benzene — a petroleum byproduct often used as a solvent — is 2 ppm in consumer products, Valisure’s testing found up to 17.7 ppm in some Old Spice products and 16.2 ppm in the highest-testing Secret products.

P&G issued voluntary recalls on several Secret and Old Spice spray products in the United States and Canada on Nov. 23. A similar recall was posted on Dec. 17 for the risk of benzene in dry shampoo and dry conditioner sprays, but they were not mentioned in LaBella’s lawsuit.

The suit cites numerous U.S. and international health bodies that had warned of the risks of benzene exposure, including the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the National Toxicology Program. Leukemia is a known risk of long-term exposure to high levels of benzene.

But the lawsuit says the company’s recall language downplayed the health risks and the level of exposure, quoting the company’s statement, which said, “Benzene is ubiquitous in the environment. Humans around the world have daily exposures to it indoors and outdoors from multiple sources.”

The suit said that none of the products’ labels included benzene or warned that the products could contain benzene. That constituted false or deceptive advertising in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

The suit seeks damages not only for the purchase of the benzene-containing products, but also for their exposure to the chemical. It estimated that potential class members could number in the thousands.


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