Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brazilian-style straightening treatments: Adverse reactions and injuries

Over the past two years, the Food and Drug Administration has received 47 complaints of adverse reactions and injuries from salon workers and clients who used Brazilian-style straightening treatments, according to FDA records obtained by the Environmental Working Group through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Reported injuries:
  • “Within five days of the treatment I began losing large amounts of hair… I have experienced about a 40% volume loss in my hair and it continues to fall out at the same alarming pace.”
  • “Hair continued to fall off as she continued to rinse. Blisters also discovered on the back of head… Complainant developed severe stability problems (severe dizziness)… Physician examined and noted hair loss, blisters on scalp and ulcer formation in her mouth.”
  • “I immediately experienced burning eyes, burning and running nose and a burning throat… I was in agony during and after the appointment.”
  • “flu-like symptoms emerged, including headaches, vomiting… Clusters of her hair were also falling off. Complainant contacted salon owners to obtain BB [Brazilian Blowout] ingredients but was denied. Complainant’s condition continued to deteriorate – persistent vomiting, difficulty breathing, chest, eye and nose irritation developed…Complainant was admitted to [redacted facility name] for respiratory distress… severe stability problems, persistent vomiting… Physician called poison control and was told that BB [Brazilian Blowout] did not contain any “harmful” chemicals.”
  • “Severe neck rashes, itching, welting, redness, eventually also rash appeared on sides of face… Severe eye burning reaction, also slight bleeding in right nostril two days later.”
Health agencies in six countries — Australia, Ireland, Canada, France, Germany and Cyprus — have announced recalls of formaldehyde-based hair straighteners. Yet FDA has adopted a “wait-and-see” approach. According to its website the agency says it is “working… to determine whether the products or ingredients would be likely to cause health problems under the intended conditions of use… FDA will continue to monitor this problem and will report on any new developments” (FDA 2010A).
FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System is voluntary and likely underplays the actual number of complaints. In 1995, John E. Bailey, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Colors and Cosmetics, estimated that the agency received one of every 50 reports of adverse reactions received by industry (Stehlin 1991). (More recent estimates are not available.) Under a voluntary system companies have no incentive to report their customers’ injuries and every reason to soft-pedal possible dangers. Consumers rarely report injuries to FDA on their own.
FDA injury reports obtained by EWG are excerpted below and available in full. [6 MB PDF file]