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Brazilian Blowout agrees to post formaldehyde warning

by Jeremy P. JacobsGreenWire
January 31st, 2012

The maker of the controversial Brazilian Blowout hair product yesterday agreed to a settlement that requires it to warn consumers that the solution emits formaldehyde when used.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) announced the settlement, which is the first successful legal action brought against Brazilian Blowout's manufacturer, GIB LLC. The manufacturer is required to stop advertising two products as "formaldehyde free," make changes to its website and pay $600,000 in fees, penalties and costs.

"California laws protect consumers and workers and give them fair notice about the health risks associated with the products they use," Harris said in a statement. "This settlement requires the company to disclose any hazard so that Californians can make more informed decisions."

The settlement includes two products, Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and the Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution. The products are known to be very effective in straightening naturally curly hair and have been made popular by Hollywood movie stars.

Concerns about the products' safety began in 2010 when salon workers reported bloody noses and other respiratory issues after applying the solution. Testing found formaldehyde levels approaching 10 percent. The culprit appears to be methylene glycol, a liquid form of formaldehyde that turns into the gas when heated. High exposures to formaldehyde are associated with a host of health effects, including cancers.

Harris filed an injunction against GIB last April, saying the formaldehyde levels exceeded California laws "by a factor of more than eight for salon workers" (E&ENews PM <http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2011/04/08/archive/12> , April 8, 2011). The settlement is also the first law enforcement under the Golden State's Safe Cosmetics Act, a right-to-know law enacted in 2005.

Yesterday's settlement requires the manufacturer to produce safety information and post it on its website. GIB must also add "caution" stickers to the product to inform salon workers that the substance emits formaldehyde and distribute safety pamphlets where the product is sold.

Public health advocates hailed the settlement as a major step forward in the fight against the product but said the Food and Drug Administration needs to step up and ban the product.

"This is welcome news for consumers in California, but companies can still use the cancer-causing chemical in their products that are sold throughout the country," said Heather White of the Environmental Working Group. "The federal FDA needs to ban formaldehyde as an ingredient in these popular products so consumers and salon workers are not inhaling a known human carcinogen."

FDA has taken some action on the keratin hair product. Last September, the agency warned the manufacturer that it had found high levels of formaldehyde in the solution and, consequently, the manufacturer was breaking the law. FDA went on to threaten "seizure and/or injunction" if the maker did not comply (Greenwire <http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2011/09/08/archive/23> , Sept. 8, 2011).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also issued a "hazard alert" on the product last September in an attempt to warn salon workers (Greenwire <http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2011/09/26/archive/19> , Sept. 26, 2011).

Those actions have not satisfied congressional Democrats like Reps. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon who have said FDA needs to pull the products from shelves (E&E Daily <http://www.eenews.net/EEDaily/2011/09/27/archive/8> , Sept. 27, 2011).

GIB did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. It has previously stood by the safety of the product, saying it meets OSHA and other regulatory standards.