Three members of congress are calling on the FDA to investigate and take further action against companies that manufacture popular hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde, which are commonly referred to as Brazilian Blowouts.
In a letter dated Dec. 11 addressed to Margaret A. Hamburg,M.D., commissioner of the FDA, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) outline the use of methylene glycol as an ingredient in the use of hair straightening treatments.
The representatives specifically name the GIB, LLC. Brazilian Blowout Solution and Acai Professional Smoothing Solution as offending products. The products contain methylene glycol, a liquid form of formaldehyde. The letter urges the FDA to protect consumers and workers using the products from serious adverse effects.
The Brazilian Blowout treatment is a salon process to straighten curly hair through heat processing of blow drying and flat ironing. The entire process takes approximately an hour and a half to complete. The results last about 10 to 12 weeks.
Harmful Effects of Formaldehyde
After receiving numerous complaints regarding the serious adverse effects as a result of the Brazilian Blowout products Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) and Oregon Health and Science University conducted testing, which revealed extremely high levels of formaldehyde in the products.
The OSHA testing found the products contained between 4.85% and 10.6% formaldehyde. The current OSHA formaldehyde standard threshold stands at a mere 0.1%. This prompted an OSHA hazard alert in Oct. 2010.
Following the complaints and OSHA alert, congress members sent a letter to the FDA in May 2011, urging quick action and a voluntary recall of the products. They called for the institution of accurate labeling of the products and a review of the formaldehyde chemical to determine if it should be banned due to health risks.
Formaldehyde is a chemical used to manufacture building materials, resins, household products and is used as an embalming agent. It is classified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA and was determined by the National Academy of Sciences to cause cancer in humans.
Common symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde may include respiratory symptoms, eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, chest pain, vomiting and rashes. The chemical has been linked to some forms of cancer and leukemia. Canada, Ireland and Australia have all banned the distribution of Brazilian Blowout products.
Lawmakers Demand More FDA Oversight
During the OSHA testing the highest amounts of formaldehyde were found in the Acai Professional Smoothing Solution which is labeled as “formaldehyde-free.” This led the FDA to issue a warning letter in August 2011 to the manufacturer stating that the product was adulterated and misbranded under federal law and called for a reformulation.
GIB refused to reformulate the product or lessen the amount of formaldehyde used in product, according to the lawmakers. The company then released a new product, Zero+solution, claiming it did not release any percentage of formaldehyde “before, during and after the treatment.”
The representatives allege no action has been taken by the FDA against the company to determine the safety of the current or new products and are calling on the FDA to protect public health and use its legal authority to remove the product from the market.
The letter requests information pertaining to any action taken against GIB, LLC, an evaluation of any new GIB products or other products on the market containing formaldehyde, and an additional evaluation of Brazilian Blowout products to determine if they are safe for at-home use by December 21.