Markey to FDA: Don’t Blow Off Risks of Brazilian Blowout

Sudbury's Congressman Edward Markey pushes the FDA for action, after workers, customers report serious health impacts from exposure to formaldehyde in hair straightening products.

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.









pmotw December 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Nice to see Mr. Markey’s priorities include things like Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatments. Forget about the fiscal crisis, terrorist attacks, North Korea, Syria etc…….
Robert Hassebrock December 13, 2012 at 02:07 PM
It is not news to anyone, especially those that work or visit salons, that there are chemicals that could cause harm present. I am not going to suggest that these blowouts do not have potential for exposure to harmful chemicals and since I in the business of environmental health and safety and have a spouse that works in a salon this has been something of personal import. As with any exposure there are safe levels and methods both to prevent exposures to unsafe levels and means to ensure they are maintained. Stylist that wish to work in salons where these products are used should inquire as to these controls. Likewise, customers, even though their exposures are reduced, should inquire as well and support salons that practice due concern for their stylists health and safety. What we don't need is another charlatan (aka Markey, FDA, et all) on a galloping horse saving the day through regulation and removing a product that has made many women much happier in life and saved countless hours of time spent restoring the look they got from the salon between visits.
x December 13, 2012 at 03:02 PM
April Fool's Day... no this is Ed Markey doing what Ed Markey does best - making us look like fools for re-electing him. Reverend E. Raleigh PImperton III
Jane Meyer December 27, 2012 at 05:35 PM
If you look into this issue there are a lot of products on the market that are very harmful and the companies are hiding the dangers to the public. Formaldehyde is no laughing matter and if getting cancer is something's that you think is not as important and other issues you are mistaken. Remember china with the Colgate? This is no different. Those who get the treatment are the most exposed, but it lingers like second hand smoke in the salon and affects anyone who walks in the door, especially small children. Unless you get your hair cut at home, I suggest that you give some respect to this article and those who are trying to get better guidelines and regulations to protect us all. There is a new product that is coming to the market and doing all of the testing before being sold and meets and exceeds government regulations, but is likely a rare case. Healthilocks.com


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