The maker of Brazilian Blowout, a popular line of “professional-only” hair-straightening products, has agreed to warn consumers that two of its formulations emit formaldehyde gas—a known carcinogen—according to California’s attorney general on Monday. As the first law enforcement action under California’s Safe Cosmetics Act, the settlement agreement, which includes $600,000 in penalties and fines, has been a long time coming. In August, after investigating inquiries from consumers and salon professionals about the safety of the products, the U.S. Food and Health Administration slapped Brazilian Blowout with a notice of safety and labeling violations. Following that, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a notice to salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with the products, which are reportedly popular with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, and Nicole Richie.

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Formaldehyde, a chemical more commonly associated with industrial-strength fungicides and embalming dead bodies, is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that can enter the body through the lungs or skin, according to OSHA. You can also be exposed accidentally if you touch your face, grab a bite, or drink after using a product containing formaldehyde without first washing your hands. Besides irritating the eyes and nose and causing coughing and wheezing, formaldehyde can also cause allergic reactions such as asthma-like breathing irregularities and skin rashes or itching. Sprayed into the eyes, it can result in damage to the point of blindess. Worse, particularly for the salon workers who are indundated multiple times a day, it’s also linked with cancer.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that can enter the body through the lungs or skin.

The ruling may allow Californians to “make more informed decisions,” according Kamala Harris, the state’s attorney general, but because it stops short of an outright ban, advocacy groups like the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance don’t view it as a win. “Obviously, these violations have not been addressed sufficiently,” it says in a press release. “The California attorney general’s settlement makes it clear that Brazilian Blowout has been selling products containing hazardous substances and marketing them as safe. The FDA must take action today to protect salon workers who are being exposed to dangerous levels of formaldehyde every day.”

Together with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the group is asking the FDA to not only remove the offending products from the marketplace but also ban formaldehyde from all hair products. “The legal settlement, while helpful, is not enough to protect the public,” says Stacy Malkan, the campaign’s co-founder. “The FDA must now follow through on its threat to seize these dangerous hair-straightening products.”


+ Brazilian Blowout

[Via Associated Press]