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Formaldehyde in Hair Products?

Formaldehyde in Hair Products?

Women's Voices for the Earth

Health advocates are ramping up pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the keratin hair-straightening product Brazilian Blowout from the marketplace in light of a legal settlement announced Jan. 30 in a California court against the company that makes the product.

The manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout and Acai Professional Smoothing Solution must cease deceptive advertising practices and put caution stickers on their products advising users that the product releases formaldehyde gas, according to the settlement agreement with California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office. The settlement is the first comprehensive and enforceable action by U.S. government authorities to address formaldehyde exposures associated with use of these products.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, according to the U.S. National Toxicology Program, and it can cause both acute and long-term health effects in sensitive persons, including breathing difficulties, bloody noses and nausea.

“Every day, salon workers across the U.S. are being exposed to dangerous levels of formaldehyde from hair smoothing products that have been banned for over a year in Canada and other countries,” said Alexandra Scranton of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. “It’s time for the FDA to take a stand against this company that has a history of deception and consumer disregard.”

Stylists who regularly perform Brazilian Blowout treatments are exposed to formaldehyde gas at levels well in excess of the state’s Proposition 65 warning threshold, according to the California Attorney General’s lawsuit. The lawsuit accused Brazilian Blowout of violating several state laws by falsely marketing the products as “salon safe” and “formaldehyde free,” failing to provide accurate Material Safety Data Sheets, and selling products with volatile organic compounds in excess of allowable limits under state regulations.

Despite all of these violations, the warning requirements are the maximum penalty that could be achieved under state law.

“We commend the California Attorney General’s office for accomplishing what no other government agency in the U.S. has been able to do: force Brazilian Blowout to be honest with salons about the risk of their products. We are also proud that this lawsuit was the first legal action taken by the state under the authority of the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005, which forces companies to publicly disclose the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics sold in the state,” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

“But the legal settlement, while helpful, is not enough to protect the public. The FDA must now follow through on its threat to seize these dangerous hair-straightening products.”

In a letter dated August 11, 2011, the FDA accused Brazilian Blowout of selling products that are misbranded and contain deleterious substances, in violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. Failure to correct the violations “may result in enforcement action without further notice, including, but not limited to, seizure and/or injunction,” states the FDA letter, that can be read by clicking here.

“Obviously, these violations have not been addressed sufficiently,” said Anuja Mendiratta of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. “The California Attorney General’s settlement makes it clear that Brazilian Blowout has been selling products containing hazardous substances and marketing them as safe. The FDA must take action today to protect salon workers who are being exposed to dangerous levels of formaldehyde every day.”

The federal Safe Cosmetics Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2011 by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) would ban chemicals known to cause cancer from cosmetics, as many other countries have already done.

“The Brazilian Blowout scandal is the perfect case study to showcase our broken regulatory system,” said Jennifer Goeres-Arce, a hair stylist in the San Diego area who contributed evidence for the state’s lawsuit against the company. “A year after other countries banned Brazilian Blowout, countless salon workers in the U.S. have been unnecessarily exposed to formaldehyde, and we are just now getting around to requiring the company to be honest about the risks of their products. It’s time to give the FDA the power and resources to protect the American public from toxic chemicals in cosmetics.”

The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance is encouraging people who have experienced health symptoms after being exposed to Brazilian Blowout-style hair straighteners to write letters to the FDA by clicking here.

The Alliance and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are asking FDA to remove Brazilian Blowout products from the marketplace and to ban formaldehyde from all hair products. To learn more, click here.

For more information, click here.

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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, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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