I can still remember that stink of “formaldehyde” from 9th grade biology class. In some ways, the smell of that stuff was worse than the task of actually dissecting the frogs and pig embryos that swam it in. Yuk. Turns out I had reason not to like formaldehyde very much. It’s a serious carcinogen.
Yet it’s found in a lot of places it shouldn’t, like Gerber Baby Wash With Lavender and Tetra Aquarium AquaSafe for Goldfish. It’s also in cigarettes. It’s also in FEMA trailers provided to Katrina victims.
It’s also in hair products. Lately, you may have caught news stories of hair stylists and clients wearing gas masks during the application of the popular celebrity hair straightener called the Brazilian Blowout. (Just check out Nicole Richie's blog!)
California Attorney General (and governor-elect) Jerry Brown has just filed a lawsuit against makers of Brazilian Blowout's Acai Professional Smoothing Solution because the product “’contains high levels of formaldehyde’ that could possibly harm both salon employees and clients, while claiming on its website that the process contains no harsh chemicals including formaldehyde.”
And a class-action suit has also been filed “on behalf of plaintiff Jessica Anderson and others who used the products; the San Diego woman had four Brazilian Blowout treatments costing $150 to $300 apiece. The suit claims the company violated consumer, false-advertising and unfair-competition laws.” Here’s more from The Oregonian:
Oregon's workplace safety watchdogs investigated the products this fall after Molly Scrutton, a 31-year-old Pearl District hair stylist, suffered chest pain, a sore throat and the first nosebleed of her life after she began offering Brazilian Blowout treatments. She contacted Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, which worked with OSHA to find out what was in the products.
When initial test results found high formaldehyde, the issue exploded, in part because the World Health Organization classifies the chemical as a carcinogen, linked to cancer of the nasal passages, lungs and blood. Canada's federal health agency pulled Brazilian Blowout from shelves. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Oregon's Department of Justice launched its own inquiry; the department is communicating with California on the issue, but hasn't decided what its next move will be, spokesman Tony Green said Thursday.
Last month, Oregon OSHA warned the state's more than 21,000 licensed hairstylists that extensive testing of 105 samples from 54 salons, using various methods, found significant formaldehyde levels. More than one-third of the samples came from bottles of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution labeled "formaldehyde-free," though formaldehyde content ranged from 6.8 percent to 11.8 percent, averaging more than 8 percent.
Brazilian Blowout asserts that Oregon OSHA failed to use the only method it considers proper for measuring formaldehyde in water-based cosmetic products, a test known as 13C-NMR; when the company conducted its own tests using that method, results showed low formaldehyde levels.
Stay safe, Nicole. Here’s GMA’s take: