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Hair straightening product may put stylists at risk, Oregon OSHA warns

October 14, 2010

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The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division in September issued two public alerts after tests showed a hair straightening product contained significant levels of formaldehyde, even when labeled "formaldehyde-free."

The investigation was prompted by salon employees who reported nosebleeds, eye irritation and breathing problems when applying the treatment. Oregon OSHA said it used four different methods to test the product, distributed by California-based Brazilian Blowout, and conducted air monitoring during the smoothing treatments. Results indicated formaldehyde levels – higher than 10 percent in some samples – exceeded exposure limits set by NIOSH and the Cincinnati-based American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, noise and upper respiratory tract; cough; chest pain; shortness of breath; and wheezing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Formaldehyde also has been linked to cancer.

Pending a complete analysis, Oregon OSHA advised hair stylists to exercise caution when using the product. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has asked the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the product.

Brazilian Blowout is questioning the test results.

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