NPR : News

Filed Under:

Hair Straightener Contains Dangerous Chemicals, FDA Says

Nearly a year ago, we warned you that a popular hair product which turns frizzy locks smooth and luxurious may be endangering the health of the salon workers who use it. Well, now the Food and Drug Administration has made it official.

The FDA issued a warning letter to the makers of Brazilian Blowout saying their product contains dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. Known to many as the stuff used to pickle frogs for biology class, formaldehyde is a chemical the National Cancer Institute calls a cancer-causing substance.

But the company says the product is safe and is working with the FDA to clear up the "misunderstanding."

Brazilian Blowout markets itself as formaldehyde free, but an FDA analysis of the product found unacceptably high levels of methylene glycol, the liquid form of formaldehyde. Levels ranged from 8.7 percent to 10.4 percent, far higher than the 0.2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel.

The FDA told the California company that makes Brazilian Blowout to stop misleading customers and misbranding its product. In the warning letter, Michael W. Roosevelt, acting director of the Office of Compliance at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition wrote: "It is your responsibility as a manufacturer, to ensure that the products your firm markets are safe."

Mike Brady, the chief executive for Brazilian Blowout, points to numerous tests done by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). "We have been tested countless times by OSHA," Brady says, "And we have never exceeded a safety standard ever," he tells Shots.

Brady says he will work with the FDA, but in the mean time, he says salons can "continue to confidently offer the Brazilian Blowout Treatment to your customers with the knowledge that Brazilian Blowout falls well below the stringent standards set forth by OSHA," he says in a statement on the company website.

The investigation of Brazilian Blowout was prompted by complaints from an Oregon hair stylist who said she suffered chest and throat pain and nosebleeds after using the product.

According to the FDA, other complaints have included eye irritation, blurred vision, nausea, rashes and vomiting.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Anne Tyler: "A Spool Of Blue Thread" (Rebroadcast)

In her first live radio interview ever, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler joins Diane to talk about her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread."


Fine Brine From Appalachia: The Fancy Mountain Salt That Chefs Prize

An artisanal salt producer is processing brine from ancient ocean deposits below West Virgina's mountains. The company, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, ships to top chefs who value the salt's minerality.

Downed Russian Warplane Highlights Regional Divide On Syria

Hugh Pope, director of communications and outreach at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, explains the growing divide between Turkey and Russia on their priorities inside Syria.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.