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
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.