By Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian
The legal tangle over Brazilian Blowout, a salon hair smoothing solution, grows frizzier. Lawyers this week filed a complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court, asking for an injunction that would force Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division to stop reporting test results showing the product contains unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
GIB, the California company that makes Brazilian Blowout, claims that OSHA’s testing methods were improper, that results were false and misleading, and that publicity surrounding the formaldehyde findings damaged the company’s name and caused irreparable harm.
A Portland hairstylist’s concerns prompted investigations into the product. In October, OSHA warned stylists that extensive testing of 105 samples of hair smoothers from 54 salons, using various methods, found significant formaldehyde levels. More than one-third of the samples came from Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution bottles labeled “formaldehyde-free,” though formaldehyde content ranged from 6.8 percent to 11.8 percent, averaging more than 8 percent.
The levels raised red flags in the beauty industry and among policymakers because formaldehyde exposure is linked to cancer. Class-action suits against the manufacturer are in the works in California and Canada. Last month, the California Attorney General‘s office filed a suit claiming Brazilian Blowout failed to warn consumers and salon workers about formaldehyde in its products. And last week Canada’s national health agency banned the sale of 10 hair straighteners, including Brazilian Blowout, found to have formaldehyde levels above the legal limit of .02 percent.
This week’s complaint names a second defendant, Oregon Health & Science University‘s Center for Research on Environmental and Occupational Toxicology, which collaborated with OSHA on testing Brazilian Blowout and other keratin-based hair treatments.
“We cannot comment on litigation,” said Melanie Mesaros, Oregon OSHA public information officer, “however, we have provided extensive information about our testing methods and results, available at www.orosha.org. It is our responsibility to protect workers, and we will continue to provide information and guidance to employers and workers to help them create and maintain safe workplaces.”
The complaint alleges that testing methods were faulty because results combined the levels of methylene glycol and formaldehyde. Methylene glycol results when formaldehyde reacts with water.
Last week, the American Chemistry Council stood behind Oregon’s methods, saying it followed federal OSHA’s definition of formaldehyde as “formaldehyde gas, its solutions and materials that release formaldehyde.”