Brazilian Blowout - Is it safe?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19/WWBT) – The word is spreading about Brazilian Blowout - a hair straightening product that promises to turn frizzy locks into silky smooth manageable hair. No one is doubting that it works, but there are concerns about the product's safety.

The Brazilian Blowout promises glossy sleek, straight hair and long lasting results. Their website claims to work wonders for Nicole Richie, Selma Hayek and Hallie Berry. It didn't take us long to find someone who loves it.

"I really love the results, my hair is really smooth and not really frizzy, which is a complete opposite from what it used to be, so I was really excited," said Shoshannah Nunez, who uses the product.

Salon owner Jane Moates fears the product is too good to be true. She fears it could be dangerous.

"This is what people are paying thousands of dollars for. They want this bone straight, beautiful shiny hair that doesn't freeze up with humidity but at what risk do you want this hair? Do you want to die for this hair?" she asked.

The villain, she fears, is Formaldehyde. Low levels can cause irritation. High levels have been linked to cancer.

"This is an earth killer, this is a human killer, this is a baby killer. It is that simple, it is no different than agent orange," said Moates.

Most hair products are safe in the bottle, but to work they have to go on your hair. Hair care professionals like Jane point out that process requires that they solution be heated. It is the heating that releases gases - gases she says could be dangerous.

"Once it is heated, it is Formaldehyde vapors, which means, the entire salon, your clientele, your staff is exposed," Moates said.

Test conducted by Oregon OSHA demonstrate that when heated, Brazilian Blowout releases the dangerous gas. We took the issue to the state office that regulates workplace safety. Eric Delia says the organization is aware of the concern but is not investigating the product.

"At the moment, we have only received one inquiry to the agency and really we base a lot of our investigations and inspections off complaints but we haven't received any as I am aware of yet," he said.

They are not investigating, but health officials in other states are. The Oregon Department of Consumers and Business services released a report stating that Brazilian Blowout does contain Formaldehyde. The report states that the product poses a "meaningful" risk to salon workers. It suggests workers take precautions by wearing masks, goggles and even respirators to work with the product.

"This is not the only culprit, this one just happens to have all the celebrity star status behind it, which means it is going to be the most used," said Moates.

Brazilian Blowout stands by its product and says it contains only trace amounts of Formaldehyde. In a statement, it says "Independent salon air monitoring performed by one of California's leading Environmental Safety Companies, Health Science Associates, has concluded that cosmetologist exposure levels are more than six times lower than OSHA's most stringent and conservative standard for air quality safety."

A scientist used by the company, Doug Schoon, points out flaws in the Oregon test. He says that the Oregon scientists found levels of Formaldehyde that could not possibly be present in the product. The FDA is also investigating Brazilian Blowout. Below is the statement released by Brazilian Blowout:

"We continue to work with closely with CAL OSHA to ensure that accurate information is released to the public.

Independent salon air monitoring performed by one of California's leading environmental safety companies, Health Science Associates, has concluded that Cosmetologists exposure levels are more than six times lower than OSHA's most stringent and conservative standard for air quality safety.

On October 9, 2010, the Air Monitoring Study was administered over an eight-hour period in a typical salon environment, while cosmetologists performed multiple Brazilian Blowout professional smoothing treatments throughout the day. The table below details the results of this scientific testing.

Test Summary: The breathing air (breathing zone) of two licensed cosmetologists was monitored while each performed two Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Treatments in the same test salon, over the same eight-hour period.  Their separate exposures to Formaldehyde gas in the air was determined to be 0.064 ppm and 0.073 ppm, which is well below OSHA's most stringent requirements for an eight-hour period, called the eight-hour time weighted average (TWA).

What does this mean? The safest and most stringent level of exposure set by Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is called the OSHA Action Limit and is even more conservative than their "Permissible Exposure Limit" (PEL).
The OSHA Action limit is 0.5 ppm, therefore, these two Cosmetologist's exposures were more than six times below OSHA's most conservative measure for safety where the potential for formaldehyde gas exposure is concerned.

Conclusion: These levels indicate that OSHA safe levels of exposure are NOT exceeded.

Doug Schoon, a leading scientist and expert who works with state, federal and international regulators to develop beauty industry related standards and regulations with regards to ingredient safety, consumer testing and cosmetics registrations/regulations, says that the test methods used by Oregon OSHA do not properly measure Formaldehyde in water based cosmetic products. The tests conducted by OSHA actually measured a completely different substance called "Methylene Glycol," and incorrectly referred to this substance as "Formaldehyde." Methylene Glycol is the key functioning ingredient used in most professional hair smoothing treatments currently on the market.

Schoon reports the following:

It is important to understand that Formaldehyde is not a cosmetic ingredient and never has been; it is a gas that cannot be added to cosmetics, and only exists in tiny trace amounts. Misunderstanding the nature of Formaldehyde has led to the incorrect belief that 37% Methylene Glycol is the same as 37% Formaldehyde, when in fact, 37% Methylene Glycol contains only trace amounts of Formaldehyde; less than 0.05% to be precise.

Flaws in the testing methods used by Oregon's division of OSHA actually cause the creation of additional Formaldehyde that is not normally found in the product, which led to Oregon OSHA erroneously reporting levels of Formaldehyde that cannot possibly exist in the product, especially given that Formaldehyde is a gas. Once again, what OSHA is actually reporting, is the amount of Methylene Glycol in the product, not Formaldehyde.

The only method that accurately measures Formaldehyde in water based cosmetic products is called "13C-NMR," and OSHA did not conduct this particular type of testing. Had OSHA performed this test, they would have discovered that only tiny traces of Formaldehyde are detectable in these products, usually well below 0.0045%"

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