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Groups file motion to prevent dismissal of lawsuit on formaldehyde in salon products

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Washington – Seeking to continue their legal fight to force the Food and Drug Administration to consider banning formaldehyde from hair-straightening products, the Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth filed a motion July 28 to deny the federal agency’s attempt to have the case dismissed.

The environmental groups claim FDA has failed to act on a citizen petition – submitted in 2011 – concerning formaldehyde in hair-straightening treatments, and that the agency has given “only cursory, non-substantive responses to plaintiffs’ inquiries as to the status of the petition.”

FDA issued warning letters to two manufacturers in March, but the environmental groups contend that it shows the agency has taken only the basic steps to determine whether to ban formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from keratin hair straighteners. The Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth filed their lawsuit Dec. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause significant irritation of the eyes, nose and lungs, according to FDA. It also can cause allergic reactions to the skin, eyes and lungs, OSHA states in a Hazard Alert on the dangers of the chemical in hair-smoothing products.

OSHA’s air tests at salons have shown formaldehyde levels above its acceptable limit. The chemical can be released into the air when heat from straightening irons or blow dryers is applied to hair.

“Salon workers have particularly suffered due to symptoms associated with these products, with many reporting long-term health problems,” Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Women’s Voices for the Earth, said in a press release. “Allowing salon workers and their customers to continue to be harmed by these products for more than six years is unconscionable.”

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) co-sponsored a bill (S. 1014) that would require manufacturers to list ingredients on their “professional use” salon products, but that legislation remains in committee. A similar bill (Assembly Bill 1575) was put forth in February in the California legislature.

The environmental groups state in their press releases that California, Oregon, Canada, France and Ireland have recalled salon products with hazardous levels of formaldehyde.

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