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Beauty Salon Workers in Danger: Toxic Brazilian Blowout

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 10:52am

For Immediate Release: April 12, 2011

Stacy Malkan,, 202-321-6963
Sian Wu,, 206-701-4734
Alexandra Gorman Scranton,, 406-396-1639

Beauty Salon Workers in Danger: Toxic Brazilian Blowout
OSHA Issues Warning; National Academy of Sciences Confirms Formaldehyde-Cancer Link; California Attorney General Issues Injunction against Brazilian Blowout

WASHINGTON— The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), under the U.S. Department of Labor, issued a hazard alert Monday, warning that popular hair straightening products such as “Brazilian Blowout” can cause serious health problems, including increased risk of cancer.

The agency released the results of air monitoring in salons and found formaldehyde at high levels, in some cases exceeding health standards. During one investigation, even a so-called “formaldehyde-free” product produced air tests showing formaldehyde exceeding limits for health and safety.

"Workers have the right to know the risks associated with the chemicals with which they work, and how to protect themselves," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels in a statement.  OSHA noted in its alert that formaldehyde is a cancer risk and stated: “Formaldehyde is a health hazard, whether in a product or in the air.”

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences released its long-awaited report confirming the EPA’s determination that formaldehyde causes cancer in humans. In addition to scientific consensus that formaldehyde causes cancer of the nose and throat, EPA identified a risk of leukemia associated with formaldehyde.

Also last week, the California Attorney General filed an injunction against Brazilian Blowout, seeking to require health warnings on the products, which is the first enforcement action the state has taken under the California Safe Cosmetics Act. The injunction notes that levels of formaldehyde emitted by the smoothing solution exceed Proposition 65 safe exposure limits “by up to a factor of more than eight for salon workers.”

“These dangerous products need to be pulled off the market, as they have been in Canada and elsewhere,” said Alexandra Gorman Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices for the Earth, a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Workers in salons across America are getting exposed to potentially unsafe levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde every day.”

To eliminate potential worker exposure, OSHA recommends that salon owners use products that do not contain formaldehyde, methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene or Chemical Abstract Service Number 50-00-0.

“Canada pulled Brazilian Blowout off the market six months ago, and our federal agencies are just now getting around to warning people of the health risks,” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. “It’s clear that we need a better safety system, where products are assessed for safety before they cause harm.” The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is leading an effort to pass the federal Safe Cosmetics Act, which would close gaping holes in the outdated federal law that allows harmful toxic chemicals in personal care products.


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ( is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Core members include Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and Women’s Voices for the Earth. The Breast Cancer Fund, a national 501(c)(3) organization focused on preventing breast cancer by identifying and eliminating the environmental links to the disease, serves as the national coordinator for the Campaign.