(NEXSTAR) — Consumer goods company Unilever has initiated a voluntary recall of two of its Suave antiperspirant products due to concerns over benzene content – exposure to high levels of the chemical has been linked to several types of cancer.

The affected products are Suave 24-Hour Protection Aerosol Antiperspirants, both the “Fresh” and “Powder” scents. The 4-6 ounce spray cans feature the UPC codes:

  • 079400751508
  • 079400784902
  • 079400785503

Items with these UPC codes and expiration dates through September 2023 are the only Unilever/Suave products affected by the recall.

Unilever explains that the antiperspirants themselves don’t contain benzene but a review showed “unexpected” levels from the propellant that sprays the product from the cans. The company says the 24-hour deodorant sprays were discontinued last year for unrelated business reasons and were previously in limited distribution at U.S. stores and online.

Retailers who carried the items have also been notified to pull any that remain, Unilever says. Anyone who has the affected products should discard them immediately.

Customers with questions or concerns can contact Unilever at (866) 204-9756. More information on the products and reimbursement can also be found at the Suave Recall page. The Food and Drug Administration says customers who may have experienced adverse reactions to the aerosols can report to its MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting.


So what is benzene?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that benzene is a colorless or yellow liquid when at room temperature. It can be naturally occurring – in volcanoes, forest fires and oil, for example – or found in human manufacturing.

Benzene is among the top 20 chemicals used in the U.S., the CDC says. It’s used to make plastics, nylons and some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents and drugs. Tobacco smoke is a large source of benzene exposure to humans.

How is it harmful?

The CDC reports benzene damages the human body by causing cells to malfunction. For instance, bone marrow can stop producing adequate amounts of red blood cells. Additionally, it can cause changes in antibodies and white blood cell loss. Immediate symptoms of exposure include headaches, dizziness, tremors, vomiting and confusion.

Long-term exposure (longer than a year) can result in cancers, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.