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New Study Finds Hidden Formaldehyde in More Hair Straighteners

Brazilian Blowout found to exceed safe levels

Click here for latest on Brazilian Blowout

CHICAGO—A new study published by ChemRisk LLC, has found that airborne formaldehyde levels associated with some keratin hair straightening products (including Brazilian Blowout) exceeded safe exposure levels set by the U.S. government in controlled tests. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and has repeatedly been found in dangerously high levels in the popular hair straightening product Brazilian Blowout for the past year.

According to the study, “Characterization of Formaldehyde Exposure Resulting from the Use of Four Professional Hair Straightening Products,” published in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, three quarters of the hair products tested contained more formaldehyde than the products claimed. The study tested four popular keratin-based hair products, including the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, Global Keratin Juvexin Optimized Functional Keratin, Coppola Keratin Complex Blonde Formula and La-Brasiliana Escluso Keratin Treatment. Only La-Brasiliana tested formaldehyde-free.

Global Keratin was the only tested product to mention the presence of formaldehyde on the label, but the ChemRisk study found the product contained more than twice the amount claimed: 8.3 percent, well above the .01 percent level set by the industry, which requires disclosure and safety hazard information. Brazilian Blowout was labeled formaldehyde-free but contained the highest levels, 11.5 percent.

“What this tells us is that companies that market these products need to properly reveal the contents of the goods they are selling,” said Dr. Jennifer Pierce, who led the study. “The study also points to the need for further research into potential health problems associated with the use of this hair treatment method, particularly those involving short-term exposure.”

“How many times does the FDA need to hear that these products are dangerous and should be pulled off the shelves?” said Alexandra Gorman Scranton, of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. “It should be the FDA’s job to protect the public’s safety and reduce exposure to poisonous products. This lack of action is evidence that our regulatory system is broken.”

The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has demanded that the FDA immediately request a voluntary recall of Brazilian Blowout and similar products and ban formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from these products. Although both the FDA and OSHA have found high levels of formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening product, the Brazilian Blowout manufacturer has issued statements to the public claiming that its product is in compliance with OSHA limits and launched a public relations campaign against the FDA. The FDA has received a response to its warning letter from the company, but has yet to release more information.

“It is incredible that Brazilian Blowout refuses to be accountable and is instead lying to consumers and stylists about the extremely high levels of formaldehyde in its product, putting our health at risk. That’s why this independent study is so important. It clearly demonstrates that government warnings on Brazilian Blowout are warranted and necessary to protect worker and public health.” stated Miriam Yeung, of the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance.

The ChemRisk study not only analyzed each product’s chemical composition but also the potential formaldehyde exposure during use. For each product, researchers collected short-term formaldehyde exposure samples during the blow-drying and flat-ironing tasks, as well as long-term samples collected over the duration of each treatment. The Brazilian Blowout ranked highest for formaldehyde exposure at 1.17 parts per million for the stylist and client in the study, followed by Global Keratin at 0.71 parts per million and Coppola at 0.11 parts per million, as measured during the full duration of each treatment.

Brazilian Blowout first came under scrutiny in October 2010, when Oregon Health & Sciences University and Oregon OSHA investigated salon worker complaints of severe reactions to the product when used as directed. Since then, federal OSHA has issued two hazard alerts, the products have been banned in more than five countries and formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are continuing to demand a recall or seizure of these products, and a reformation of lax regulations through the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which was introduced in Congress in June. The new law would set safety standards for chemicals used in personal care and salon products before they reach the marketplace, and phase out toxic ingredients such as formaldehyde found in the Brazilian Blowout.

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The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, a joint project of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Women’s Voices of the Earth, and the CA Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (Alliance) works to increase the health, safety, and rights of salon workers by reducing their toxic chemical exposure through engaging in strategic movement building, policy advocacy and media efforts nationwide.

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