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Congress members send letter to FDA calling for tougher action on formaldehyde

By Andrew MCDOUGALL , 12-Dec-2012
Last updated the 12-Dec-2012 at 17:22 GMT

In a battle that has spanned the last two years; a group of congress members have written a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration expressing concerns over the lack of progress or action taken against hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde.

The possible health impacts of these products have been widely publicized, yet congress members Edward J. Markey, Jan Schakowsky and Earl Blumenauer feel not enough has been done to ensure consumer and salon professional’s safety.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the lawmakers state, “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 the continued use of … hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde.”

A case-in point

Last year, hair care company Brazilian Blowout received a warning from the FDA over formaldehyde levels and the possible health risks this involved.

However, the makers refused to reformulate their product to eliminate or even reduce the levels of formaldehyde, and in January 2012, the California Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with the makers of Brazilian Blowout that required the company to stop advertising as formaldehyde-free and to place warning stickers on the product.

However, the letter from the members of Congress state that FDA should have taken immediate action to stop the sale of the products whilst considerations take place.

“The FDA should not blow-off investigating the serious health impacts associated with Brazilian Blowout and other hair straighteners that contain toxic levels of formaldehyde,” says Markey in the letter.

Stronger action needed

Rep. Schakowsky  adds: “This letter calls for strong action to address dangerous formaldehyde-containing hair straightening treatments.”

Schakowsky states that the Safe Cosmetics Act was introduced to provide the FDA with sufficient authority and resources to get dangerous cosmetic ingredients off the shelves. 

“Along with Reps. Markey and Blumenauer, we will continue to push legislation forward.  However, the FDA has not used their existing tools to remove adulterated and misbranded products from the market,” she says.

In May 2011, Reps. Markey, Schakowsky, Blumenauer and seven other House Democrats called on the FDA to take immediate action after it was found that dangerous levels of formaldehyde were present in popular hair straightening beauty products and serious health impacts were reported by salon workers and customers following use of these products.

A copy of the full letter can be found here.

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