Workplace exposures

Advocacy groups sue FDA over salon worker exposure to formaldehyde

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Washington – Two nonprofit groups have filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration for “failure to protect” salon workers and consumers from hair straightening treatments containing formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen and allergen.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth. It requests that the court implement and enforce a deadline for FDA to investigate and respond to a petition, filed in 2011, in which EWG asked the agency to investigate and regulate keratin hair straighteners.

The liquid straighteners, often known by the brand name Brazilian Blowout, contain high levels of formaldehyde that can be released into the air via the heat from blow dryers or straightening irons.

FDA released an informational webpage and issued warnings to two manufacturers, but Brazilian Blowout and similar products continue to be sold and used, EWG notes in a Dec. 14 press release.

“For years, stylists have reported that the application of these hair treatments caused difficulty breathing, eye irritation and nosebleeds,” EWG Assistant General Counsel Tina Sigurdson said in the release. “The FDA has been aware of the health hazards associated with the products since at least 2008. Despite these dangers, the FDA has yet to take action to remove them from the market.”

California, Oregon, Canada, France and Ireland have removed such products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde from shelves, the release notes.

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