6:46 PM EDT, April 12, 2011
Brazilian Blowout and other hair straightening and smoothing products can release formaldehyde, even when labeled "formaldehyde-free," according to a hazard alert recently issued by a federal agency for salon workers and owners.
Salon air monitoring tests, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in response to worker complaints, found high levels of the strong-smelling gas that in some cases exceeded health standards.
OSHA also found that hair salon owners often didn't know that the product contained or could expose the workers to formaldehyde because it was either labeled “formaldehyde-free” or formaldehyde wasn't listed on the product or in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
Formaldehyde, which is considered a health hazard, can irritate the eyes and nose and cause allergic reactions in the skin, eyes and lungs. It's also linked to nose and lung cancer.
Several other countries, including Canada, have already pulled Brazilian Blowout off the market. Some state agencies, meanwhile, including Oregon's OSHA and Connecticut's Department of Public Health, have issued warnings.
Last week, the California Attorney General filed an injunction against Brazilian Blowout, seeking to require health warnings on the products, which is the first enforcement action the state has taken under the California Safe Cosmetics Act.
The injunction notes that levels of formaldehyde emitted by the smoothing solution exceed Proposition 65 safe exposure limits "by up to a factor of more than eight for salon workers."
"It's clear that we need a better safety system, where products are assessed for safety before they cause harm," said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry."
The hazard alert provides information about OSHA's investigations, the health hazards of formaldehyde and how to protect people who are working with hair smoothing and straightening products.
To eliminate potential worker exposure, OSHA recommends that salon owners use products that do not contain formaldehyde, methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene or Chemical Abstract Service Number 50-00-0.