Brazilian Blowout Day: We’ll Celebrate When the FDA Bans Formaldehyde

A ridiculous and completely unofficial website that tracks made-up holidays says Monday is Brazilian Blowout Day. The National Day Calendar suggests you celebrate by going to a hair salon for a blowout. I sure hope you don’t.

EWG and Women’s Voices for the Earth are suing the Food and Drug Administration for failing to protect salon workers and consumers from the toxic formaldehyde fumes they’re exposed to by these popular smoothing treatments. Professional stylists and their clients need the FDA’s protection from these dangerous products, which the agency has known about since at least 2008.

In 2011, EWG petitioned the FDA to investigate more than a dozen companies for misrepresenting or hiding their products’ formaldehyde content. We asked the FDA to consider banning formaldehyde from hair straighteners and requiring manufacturers to put warnings on their labels that these products contain or release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen and potent allergen.

But as more reports came in saying these treatments make salon workers and clients sick, the FDA did nothing.

This failure is the basis for EWG and WVE’s suit, which asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to set a deadline for the agency to respond.

These formaldehyde-laced hair straighteners – known as keratin treatments or by the brand name Brazilian Blowout – have been linked to injuries associated with formaldehyde exposure including massive hair loss, neck and face rashes, blistered scalps, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, eye irritation, nosebleeds, breathing problems, and loss of taste and smell.

Even the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review found the products unsafe to use, yet they remain common. The flagrant disregard for consumer and worker safety illustrates a larger problem: the need for strong federal oversight of the cosmetics industry.

Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, recently introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which would significantly strengthen the FDA’s authority to address health risks of cosmetics. The bill would update the archaic 1938 federal cosmetics law and require companies to report adverse events of customers to the FDA, as well as require companies to list ingredient information on their websites and on the products used by professionals and available to consumers online.

The bipartisan legislation also would require the FDA to regularly review the safety of cosmetics ingredients, including formaldehyde, and to require bans or special labeling of chemicals found to be harmful. The agency would have the authority to take these dangerous products off the market once and for all.

Hair loss, allergic reactions and other health problems are not things to celebrate. I’ll celebrate when the FDA finally bans formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from hair straightening treatments. Until then, please stay away from them. It is flat-out too risky.

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