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The manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout made millions of dollars while unfairly exposing stylists to harmful chemicals – putting them in harm’s way for profit’s sake. Is a hair straightening service worth exposure to the human carcinogen, formaldehyde?
According to a study sponsored by the Oregon OSHA, the formaldehyde content in several samples of Brazilian Blowout Solution ranged from 6.4 to 10.8 percent (40 times the acceptable limit), while the formaldehyde content in several samples of Brazilian Blowout Acai ranged from 6.8 to 11.8 percent (44 times the acceptable limit).
Furthermore, under the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) standards, formaldehyde in excess of .1 percent must be listed as an ingredient. Brazilian Blowout never before listed formaldehyde as an ingredient. It appeared that the Brazilian Blowout misrepresented their product.
Formaldehyde exposure has been associated with asthma, pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, cancer of the nose or throat and other severe respiratory symptoms.
There are likely thousands of stylists that have been put at risk because of the actions of GIB LLC, the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout. OSHA, Congress, the FDA and public interest groups have been vocal in their outrage.
Though, stylists are left in a tough position. It is certainly in their best financial interest to believe GIB LLC and continue to provide the very popular, effective and expensive service – but, to do so potentially puts their health at risk.
In October 2010, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Hazard Alert for anyone using or working with Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products.
On August 22, 2011, the FDA issued a warning letter to GIB LLC accusing them of misleading the public about the safety of its hair straightening service. The letter also stated the company had 15 days to correct their violations of the FDA Cosmetics Act.
The FDA alleges that Brazilian Blowout is an adulterated cosmetic because it contains a deleterious substance that may cause injury when used as intended. In addition, the FDA alleges that Brazilian Blowout is misbranded because its labeling makes misleading statements regarding the product’s ingredients – specifically that the product contains formaldehyde.
The California Attorney General’s Office followed suit by filing a lawsuit in November 2011 alleging that the company that makes the Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening product failed to warn consumers that its solution contains a cancer-causing chemical, despite company claims that it is “formaldehyde-free.”
For the seven months following, we watched GIB LLC market their popular Brazilian Blowout product as “formaldehyde-free” while simultaneously being investigated by the FDA, OSHA, California’s Attorney General, and Oregon OSHA for exposing stylists and users to that same harmful chemical.
Although there was no public action taken in response to the FDA warning letter issued on August 22, 2011, it will be hard for GIB LLC to ignore the effect that all of those efforts have made.
For the first time, the mainstream cosmetics industry has declared formaldehyde unsafe at any level in hair straighteners.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, an unbiased scientific advisory board established by the major American cosmetics manufacturers, has declared that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe for use in hair smoothing products, the use of which involves the application of high temperatures (i.e. the Brazilian Blowout Service).
Although the FDA publicly admonished Brazilian Blowout, the FDA stopped short of banning all formaldehyde in hair services. GIB, LLC has not complied with the FDA warning, but, instead, is fighting the charges with a public relations attack, using stylists to contact the FDA on their behalf, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer urged GIB to voluntarily pull the product from the market. Responding to Rep. Blumenauer’s request, Mike Brady, President of GIB LLC responded, “We’re going to continue to offer a product that gives people the hair of their life.”
If GIB is allowed to continue to offer it, the likelihood is that despite the FDA warnings, the product will continue to sell. Thomas Cluderay of the Environmental Working Group explains:
“The incentive to downplay mounting health concerns is substantial when you can charge several hundred dollars for a single treatment. Until regulators pull the plug on Brazilian Blowout, I think it’s clear the company is prepared to do just about anything to peddle these products.”
Makers of Brazilian Blowout ignored warnings from the members of Congress, FDA, from OSHA, and from the Cosmetics Ingredient Review.
On January 30, 2012, GIB LLC settled a lawsuit filed by California’s Attorney General who accused the maker of Brazilian Blowout of deceptive advertising since the solutions were not formaldehyde-free, although the labels indicated they were. The settlement required the company to make changes to its website and to pay a fine of $600,000.
Pursuant to the settlement, the website now includes safety sheets for each of the Brazilian Blowout products, but there now appears to be less news regarding the controversy. In the past, the Brazilian Blowout website included a note stating that the company was “working directly with the FDA to help clear up the controversy.” That note is now gone. Although there have been lots of articles regarding the formaldehyde controversy, the Brazilian Blowout press webpage only includes articles from fashion magazines and no mention of the company’s action (or inaction) regarding this issue.
The second blow comes in the form of a class action settlement. The settlement of $4.5 million will be shared by consumers harmed by the products. Each eligible consumer will receive $35 for each treatment and $75 for each bottle of the product purchased.
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