The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the latest agency to weigh in on hair-smoothing products that allegedly contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde and methylene glycol — and Brazilian Blowout is under direct fire.
On Monday, OSHA issued a revised hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers stating that during recent investigations, it found air tests showing formaldehyde at hazardous levels in salons using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu, resulting in citations for multiple violations. OSHA said it found that workers were exposed to formaldehyde in these salons at levels higher than the agency’s protective limits. OSHA also cited two manufacturers and two distributors of hair-smoothing products for violations that included failing to list formaldehyde on product labels as well as on accompanying hazard warning sheets, known as material safety data sheets, that are provided to the products’ users.
OSHA’s alert follows a report filed on Sept. 30 by Cosmetic Ingredient Review, which stated that while many hair-smoothing products “are unsafe in the present practices of use…exposure to formaldehyde could be minimized with proper procedures and use of personal ventilation devices,” according to a report by Alan Anderson, director of CIR.
The CIR report came about a month after the Food & Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Brazilian Blowout for being an “adulterated and misbranded product.” The product was found to contain methylene glycol, which can release formaldehyde during the normal conditions of use; but the product is labeled “formaldehyde free” or “no formaldehyde” and does not list formaldehyde on the material safety data sheet.
Brazilian Blowout chief executive officer Mike Brady said that OSHA’s recent results are at odds with results from tests he said they conducted in the past. “I am in receipt of federal OSHA results and they tested [our formulas] in 24 different salons and we passed all the tests. Federal OSHA has tested over and over our products, and there are no violations — and emissions are well below standards. And the treatment is a life-changing experience. Put those two together and we are where we need to be.”
He said he has responded to FDA’s warning letter by providing them with “volumes” of air test results and documents from federal OSHA.
“We are in direct contact with them. Some, not all, are labeling issues. That is an easy resolution. I have no issues with FDA.”
Brady, who said he replaced the original maker of his formulas with a new manufacturer in Brazil, insisted that he is “in no way reformulating” his current solution, and despite the negative attention, “business is good and every day gets better.”
The agencies’ actions follow months of review on the topic of hair-smoothing safety, one that was sparked in October 2010 when a stylist in Oregon complained of eye, nose and throat irritation after administering certain smoothing treatments in the salon where she worked.
The popularity of hair-smoothing treatments, which cost as much as $300 to $500 per service, has even triggered the formation of the Professional Keratin Smoothing Council, an entity comprised of three hair-smoothing brands that aims for safe formulas and safe use in salons. Edward Quevedo, a partner at Paladin Law, said, “Those in the council ensure that maximum efforts are working on formulations. The rest is a tempest in a teapot. If our only answer is to beat on the drum that our products are safe, we will be perceived as dodging the issue. They are safe if used properly. [CIR] is not convinced they are being used properly, and it is their job to be conservative.”
Quevedo continued that while some of the manufacturers of smoothing treatments within PKSC contain methylene glycol, “none contain formaldehyde as an ingredient. Formaldehyde is a possible consequence in terms of emissions in the air. Methylene glycol is a stable, safe substance, and when heated at low temperatures, it might in some cases result in formaldehyde vapors. But when they occur and are used properly they have never in tests had emissions higher than the .002.” That number is the acceptable amount stipulated by OSHA and CIR.