Unilever faces a proposed class action that alleges dry shampoos voluntarily recalled by the company last month are contaminated with dangerously high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen.
More specifically, the 38-page complaint says aerosol dry shampoos sold under the Suave, TIGI, TRESemmé, Dove and Nexxus brands were recalled due to “potentially elevated levels of benzene,” a chemical used primarily in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Per the case, Unilever knew or should have known that its dry shampoos contained benzene, in part because the company in March voluntarily recalled certain aerosol spray deodorants that also contained high levels of the carcinogen.
As the lawsuit tells it, the presence of benzene in the dry shampoos is “especially troubling” given aerosol products are regularly used indoors and in large volumes, creating a high possibility of short- and long-term inhalation.
According to the lawsuit, Unilever unlawfully failed to disclose the presence of benzene in the dry shampoos to the public.
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“Instead of disclosing this fact to consumers, Defendant represented that its Products are safe and effective for their intended use, touting its ‘strict quality controls’ to ‘limit the presence of benzene’ in the products,” the suit states. “Nevertheless, Unilever has produced, marketed, labeled, distributed, and sold millions of dry shampoo Products that contained, or had a material risk of containing, benzene.”
The lawsuit says Unilever’s voluntary recall of dry shampoos sold under the Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head), and TRESemmé brands in October was “wholly inadequate” in that it is limited to products bought before October 2021, and to only specific lots of the affected dry shampoos, and requires consumers to have proof of purchase in order to receive compensation.
The filing states that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies benzene as a Class 1 solvent that should not be used in the manufacture of “drug substances, excipients, and drug products,” unless its use is unavoidable in order to make a product with “a significant therapeutic advance.” In these cases, the suit says, the cap on the amount of benzene that may be found in a drug product is two parts per million (ppm).
The case contends that since Unilever dry shampoos are decidedly not drug products, “any amount of benzene is unacceptable and should not be employed in the manufacture of the Products.”
According to the complaint, the health hazards of benzene, the major source of which is petroleum in the United States, have been recognized for roughly a century. Unilever knew of the risk that the dry shampoos at issue contained benzene “at least as early as July 2021,” around which time the defendant’s competitors began recalling aerosol products due to the presence of the substance, the case states.
In light of the foregoing, the Suave, TIGI, TRESemmé, Dove and Nexxus dry shampoos are adulterated and misbranded and thus illegal to sell, the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit looks to cover all consumers in the United States who bought any Unilever-made dry shampoos, including those sold under the Suave, TIGI, TRESemmé, Dove and Nexxus brands, for personal use.
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