Sudbury's U.S. Rep. Ed Markey wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate hair straightening treatments, including the Brazilian Blowout.
Markey, along with democratic congressmen from Oregon and Illinois, sent a letter to Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg Tuesday urging the agency to protect salon workers and consumers from these straightening treatments which contain formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in amounts that exceeds FDA guidelines.
Across America, complaints have been reported by hair salon workers and customers of nose bleeds, breathing problems, vomiting, and hair loss associated with the use of hair straightening products such as Brazilian Blowout.
Despite a warning from the FDA in August 2011, the makers of Brazilian Blowout have refused to reformulate their product to eliminate or even reduce the levels of formaldehyde.
“The FDA should not blow-off investigating the serious health impacts associated with Brazilian Blowout and other hair straighteners that contain toxic levels of formaldehyde,” said Markey in a press statement.
“The FDA should immediately take action to stop the sale of these potentially carcinogenic hair straightening products and continue to evaluate whether to ban formaldehyde from hair straighteners altogether. Rep. (Jan) Schakowsky and I introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act to help to protect American consumers from being exposed to dangerous and cancer-causing ingredients, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to move this important legislation forward," said Markey.
At a cost of $200 to $500 per treatment has become popular with women who who have frizzy, damaged or processed hair. The treatment, straightens the hair and manages it for several months.
A copy of the letter to the FDA can be found here.
In the letter, the lawmakers request responses from the FDA to questions that include:
- What steps has the FDA taken to protect the public from Brazilian Blowout products that contain dangerous formaldehyde?
- Has the FDA initiated additional enforcement action against the makers of Brazilian Blowout?
- Is it the FDA’s opinion that the makers of Brazilian Blowout have adequately addressed the violations noted in an August 2011 warning letter?
- What steps has FDA taken to look generally into hair straightening products on the market and conduct tests to determine whether other cosmetic manufacturers are producing products that may similarly contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde?
- What is the FDA’s process for evaluating the safety of a cosmetic ingredient when it has already been deemed to be unsafe by the industry’s ingredient review board?
In January 2012, the California Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with the makers of Brazilian Blowout requiring the company to stop advertising as formaldehyde-free and to place warning stickers on the product.
Markey and his colleagues first contacted the FDA in May 2011, requesting the agency to initiate a voluntary recall of the products and institute better labeling practices and warnings. They also asked the agency to conduct a review of whether formaldehyde should be banned given associated health risks.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Hazard Alert in April 2011 to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with these products. On Aug. 22, 2011, FDA issued a Warning Letter citing Brazilian Blowout for safety and labeling violations.
Despite the August 2011 warning, the company has not reformulated its product to reduce or eliminate the levels of formaldehyde, the letter from the congressman said Tuesday.
Because the law doesn't require cosmetics to be approved by FDA before they go on the market, consumers can report bad reactions by calling the FDA's MedWatch adverse event reporting system at 1-800-332-1088.
Salon workers can file complaints about unsafe workplaces with OSHA.