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Salon workers, environmental groups petition FDA to ban formaldehyde in hair products, treatments

Salon worker
Photo: lovro77/iStockphoto

Washington — Two environmental groups, along with 75 salon workers from across the country, have filed a citizen petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to ban hair straighteners containing formaldehyde.

According to a press release from Women’s Voices for the Earth, formaldehyde can cause difficulty breathing, eye irritation and nosebleeds, along with rashes and hair loss. The American Cancer Society says exposure to relatively high amounts of formaldehyde in medical and occupational settings has been linked to some types of cancer.

The petition lists documented health hazards from exposure to these products, known as keratin treatments, which involve solutions containing liquid formaldehyde being applied to the hair. Then, blow dryers and hair-straightening irons are used, causing the release of formaldehyde gas. WVE and the Environmental Working Group contend FDA has been aware of the hazards since at least 2008, but has failed to act.

According to the release, California has passed a law that will ban formaldehyde from hair straighteners sold in the state beginning in 2025. Maryland recently passed a similar law that’s expected to go into effect that same year.


The organizations also note that California, Maryland and Oregon – along with Canada, France and Ireland – have removed products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde from store shelves.

“Salon workers have particularly suffered with symptoms associated with these products, with many reporting long-term health problems,” Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at WVE, said in the release. “The health risks posed by these products deserved immediate action from the FDA when brought to the agency’s attention in 2008. Allowing salon workers and their customers to continue to be harmed by these products for more than a decade is unconscionable.”

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