FTC FOIA Re: Brazilian Blowout

Freedom of Information Act Request
Office of General Counsel
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing you on behalf of the Environmental Working Group to make a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, and corresponding Federal Trade Commission regulations, 16 C.F.R. Part 4.

EWG is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of information to protect public health and the environment. EWG provides useful resources to consumers and advocates policies that promote conservation and mitigate health risks.

In keeping with that mission, EWG has been monitoring reports from Oregon regarding the discovery of formaldehyde in test samples of Brazilian Blowout – despite claims that the products are “formaldehyde free.”1 Oregon health officials found concentrations of formaldehyde that were more than 50 times greater than industry’s recommended 0.2 percent limit.2 They conducted tests following complaints from hair stylists who experienced “eye irritation, nose bleeds and difficulty breathing” after using Brazilian Blowout’s products.3

EWG is troubled by these events because it suggests that some manufacturers may be making false and deceptive claims about cosmetics products that impose unnecessary health risks on consumers. This case is particularly serious because formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and “severe allergic reactions.”4 Medical experts also suspect that formaldehyde is a “human carcinogen.”5

Because of the public’s interest in this matter, EWG requests copies of all FTC records (including but not limited to electronic records) regarding concerns about the marketing of Brazilian Blowout products and any other hair-straightening product sold in the past two years.

Specifically, EWG requests access to the following types of records:

  1. All consumer complaints about potentially false, deceptive, or misleading claims made about Brazilian Blowout products or any other hair-straightening product brought to the FTC’s attention in the past two years;

  2. All correspondence between FTC staff and cosmetics manufacturers regarding the truth and accuracy of claims made about hair-straightening products such as Brazilian Blowout in the past two years; and

  3. All correspondence between FTC and FDA staff about cosmetics manufacturers’ claims about hair-straightening products such as Brazilian Blowout in the past two years.

EWG will accept the requested records with all Privacy Act-protected information redacted.

EWG asks the FTC to waive search or review fees related to this FOIA request in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 16 C.F.R. § 4.8(e). Granting a fee waiver is in the public interest because this request will help the public more fully understand the risks associated with certain consumer products and how government agencies are addressing them. EWG’s interest in the requested documents is purely non-commercial. If the FTC cannot grant a fee waiver, EWG is willing pay up to $100 so that the FTC may conduct the requested search in a timely fashion.

If you require further clarification about this FOIA request or anticipate any problems with releasing the requested documents, please contact me at (202) 667-6982.

EWG looks forward to your reply to this request within 20 business days, as provided under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) and 16 C.F.R. § 4.11(a)(1)(iii)(A).


Thomas Cluderay
Stabile Law Fellow
Environmental Working Group

1 Press Release, Or. Health & Science Univ.’s Ctr. for Research on Occupational and Envt’l Toxicology (Sept. 30, 2010), http://www.orosha.org/admin/newsrelease/2010/nr2010_24.pdf.
2See id.; see also COSMETIC INGREDIENT REVIEW, 2009 CIR COMPENDIUM 83 (2009).
3 Andrea Canning, et al., Brazilian Blowout Hair-Straightening Product Under Fire, ABC NEWS, Oct. 1, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Consumer/brazilian-blowout-hair-straightening-samples-formaldehyde/story?id=11771569.
4 OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMIN., OSHA FACT SHEET: FORMALDEHYDE 1 (2002), http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf.

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