By Jack Schatz
(March 7, 2011) The Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment may emit unsafe levels of formaldehyde and methylene glycol, according to a preliminary report released today by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
CIR’s report is the first acknowledgment by the federal government that Brazilian Blowout treatments may pose a health risk. The preliminary report is the latest in a long line of health agency warnings about the products, which have been recalled in Canada, Ireland, and France.
Last November, then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed suit against the North Hollywood manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution under Proposition 65, alleging that the company failed to warn consumers and cosmetics workers about high levels of formaldehyde in its products.
Formaldehyde is listed as a carcinogen under Proposition 65, and can also cause eye irritation and respiratory problems.
The Brazilian Blowout solution first came under scrutiny last October, when the Oregon Dept. of Occupational Safety and Health found unsafe levels of formaldehyde in the product in several tests, after investigating several reports from salon workers that complained of eye and respiratory irritation.
The CIR Expert Panel said in a statement that formaldehyde is safe in cosmetic products when formulated at minimal effective concentrations.
The panel said those concentrations should not exceed 0.2 percent by volume, and emphasized that formaldehyde “should not be used in products intended to be aerosolized.”
“It can not be concluded that formaldehyde/methylene glycol is safe in cosmetic products intended to be aerosolized or in which formaldehyde/methylene glycol vapor or gas will be produced under conditions of use,” the panel stated in its report.
According to the preliminary report, when hair-smoothing products containing formaldehyde or methylene glycol are heated, they can release small amounts of formaldehyde gas. The products’ safe use is largely dependent on proper ventilation when they are applied, the report said.
CIR investigated the hair straightening products at the urging of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the industry trade group, the Personal Care Products Council.
“We urge customers to exercise caution in using these products,” said John Bailey, chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council said in a statement following the release of CIR’s preliminary report.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Proposition 65 enforcement action against GIB, LLC, the U.S. manufacturer of the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment, is proceeding in Alameda County Superior Court.
GIB, did not respond to a call by Prop 65 News to comment on CIR’s preliminary report, but the company itself made news.
After its motion for an injunction was recently denied, GIB dropped its lawsuit against Oregon Occupational Safety & Health division (OSHA) and Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, wherein GIB sought to stop these state agencies from reporting test results regarding GIB and other hair smoothing products.
Oregon OSHA in October tested 105 samples of hair smoothing solutions from 54 salons, finding significant formaldehyde levels. More than one-third apparently came from Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution bottles labeled “formaldehyde-free,” though OSHA’s test results showed formaldehyde content ranging from 6.8 percent to 11.8 percent, averaging more than 8 percent.
In its lawsuit, GIB called the results false and misleading, and claimed that publicity surrounding the formaldehyde findings damaged the company’s name and caused irreparable harm. It also accused Oregon OSHA of overstepping its statutory role.
GIB also recently launched a new product, Brazilian Blowout Zero, which, according to its website, is formulated with a bonding system that releases no formaldehyde.
The case cited by this article is: People v. GIB, LLC (Alameda Co. Sup. Ct. Case No. RG-10-545880).