Brazilian Blowout Problems Prompt Calls for FDA Oversight

Congress is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a voluntary recall of two controversial salon hair-straightening treatments over concerns surrounding significantly high formaldehyde levels, said The Wall Street Journal. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed <"">formaldehyde a probable human carcinogen.

The Brazilian Blowout and similar products are pricey salon treatments that promise to leave hair “frizz-free, shiny, effortlessly manageable and with plenty of body and bounce.” Results are said to last up to 12 weeks. According to its website, the Brazilian Blowout “smoothes the hair through the use of a proprietary polymer system that bonds amino acids to the surface of the hair.” The site claims that the treatment is “100% salon safe.”

Congressional Representatives Jan Schakowsky (Democrat-Illinois) and Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts) wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking for a voluntary recall of the contentious Brazilian Blowout treatments. The representatives cited a 2010 study conducted by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division that revealed that formaldehyde was found in the Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, said the Journal.

In October, health officials in Oregon issued an alert to hair salons there after workers at one Oregon salon complained that they had suffered eye irritation, nose bleeds, and difficulty breathing after using the Brazilian Blowout. At the time, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) said it had found significant levels of formaldehyde in the hair-smoothing solution sold under the name Brazilian Blowout. It later broadened the alert, telling salons that use hair-smoothing treatments, particularly those referred to as “Keratin-based,” to take necessary precautions outlined in its formaldehyde rule. The FDA has been investigating the hair products.

Oregon OSHA measured the Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution—labeled “formaldehyde free”—and found that they contained 8 percent and 8.8 percent formaldehyde, respectively, said the Journal, which noted that Oregon OSHA mandates that products containing 0.1 percent formaldehyde bear a disclosure on the label.

“These dangerous products are still available and used on a daily basis in salons across the United States,” the representatives wrote, quoted the Journal. The lawmakers are hoping that the FDA will test chemical hair straighteners, issuing recalls for those with high formaldehyde levels, said the Journal. The representatives also want the agency to mandate warning labels for formaldehyde-containing products and the Journal noted that other treatments contain the toxin, some labeled “keratin” or “Brazilian” treatments.

Meanwhile, the marketer of Brazilian Blowout maintains its products are safe; Mike Brady, chief executive, says the line is “a perfectly safe product that gives people the hair of a lifetime and generates money for the economy,” quoted the Journal. Brady claims the letter written to the FDA is “not based on any fact. It’s just based on emotion.”

Recently, a Brazilian Blowout class action lawsuit was filed, seeking millions for the users of the popular hair straightening treatments. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego, California, alleges that Brazilian Blowout claims the hair treatments contain no harsh chemicals, when in fact, they expose users to formaldehyde. The Brazilian Blowout lawsuit, one of many such claims filed in the wake of the Oregon health alert, seeks more than $5 million in class damages for fraud by omission, unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, intentional misrepresentation, false advertising and violation of business laws.

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