Be Banned Altogether?
The danger of hair-straightening products that contain formaldehyde has been well documented—Allure first broke the story of the Brazilian hair straightening treatments in 2007—but until now, it's been up to consumers to steer clear of the toxic chemicals. But recently, 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration expressing their concern and asking the agency to take immediate action to protect workers and consumers.
Under current US law, the FDA cannot require product recalls or bans, but it can issue a voluntary recall, which it has yet to do in this case. Last month, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert for salon employees, warning that formaldehyde-containing hair-straightening products can cause serious health problems, including an increased risk of cancer. (Several countries, including Canada, have banned formaldehyde-based straighteners altogether.)
At least one lawmaker has used the issue as a reason to call for stricter regulations of cosmetics and beauty products. "This is a dramatic example of why we urgently need to close the gaping holes in the outdated federal law that allows hazardous chemicals in cosmetics products," said Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Congress representative, who signed the letter. "That's why I'm planning to re-introduce the Safe Cosmetics Act, legislation which will ensure that cosmetics do not contain harmful ingredients." The law would expand the FDA's powers so that it had the authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients and that ingredients are fully disclosed.