Democrats question safety of 'Brazilian Blowout' hair treatment

Three Democratic lawmakers are questioning regulators about the level of formaldehyde used in popular hair-straightening treatments such as "Brazilian Blowout." 

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday, worried that consumers are poorly informed about the treatments' potential hazards.

The lawmakers accused makers of solutions like "Brazilian Blowout" of lying about the safety of their solution, and asked FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to remove "clearly adulterated or misbranded" products from the market. 

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Markey added that the FDA should "continue to evaluate whether to ban formaldehyde from hair straighteners altogether."

"The FDA's inaction on this matter is putting the health of thousands of salon workers and consumers at risk of dangerous formaldehyde exposure from continued use of not only Brazilian Blowout, but other hair-straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde," the lawmakers wrote.

"Brazilian" treatments — also known as keratin treatments — temporarily straighten hair and last about three months.

They have been banned in Canada, Ireland and Australia over their formaldehyde content, which can cause vomiting, nosebleeds and other health issues.

In the United States, the maker of the "Brazilian Blowout" product agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for about $4.5 million in March. The settlement barred the manufacturer from marketing its products as "formaldehyde free."

"They can still sell the product as long as they market it appropriately," a lawyer for the plaintiffs told The New York Times. "Our major concern is that people simply know what it is that they are buying."

The letter from Markey, Schakowsky and Blumenauer continues their push for aggressive FDA action against unsafe hair products.

Markey and Schakowsky are authors of the Safe Cosmetics Act, which would phase out ingredients linked to cancer and birth defects.

The legislation would also require full ingredient disclosure on product labels.