The “Brazilian Blowout” is a popular treatment administered by salons to smooth their clients’ hair. The Oregonian’s Katy Muldoon explores the experience of one hairstylist who worried about the effects of the chemicals contained in the treatment.
After a few months of administering Brazilian Blowouts, Portland hairstylist Molly Scrutton began experiencing throat and chest pain. When she and salon owner Pauline Steiner called the treatment’s distributor, the company refused to tell them what the ingredients were — so Scrutton decided to stop offering the service. She wrote a memo to her salon co-workers about her concerns, and they all stopped providing Brazilian Blowout treatment, too. Muldoon explains how Scrutton went on to investigate what was in the products — which resulted in both US and Canadian officials getting involved:
Concerned for stylists elsewhere, who are exposed to the product far more often than customers, Scrutton didn’t stop. She asked a client who researches formaldehyde at Oregon Health & Science University for advice. The client put her in touch with Dede Montgomery, an occupational safety and health specialist and certified industrial hygienist at OHSU’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology.
Montgomery visited the salon where Scrutton works, collected a sample of Brazilian Blowout, and delivered it to OSHA’s Portland lab. A couple weeks later, Montgomery collected a sample from a second salon; OSHA gathered a third sample in September.
OSHA, the agency responsible for workplace safety and health, issued an alert warning Sept. 30 that samples of Brazilian Blowout and Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, which is sold by the same company, contained high levels of formaldehyde. A variety of testing methods showed samples containing between 4.85 percent and 10.6 percent formaldehyde. When Canada’s health agency tested Brazilian Blowout, it found 12 percent formaldehyde.
OSHA requires manufacturers whose products are used in workplaces and that contain more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde to list the chemical and to address safe work practices on the material safety data sheet with the product.
Muldoon explains that Brazilian Blowout “blasted OSHA’s test results” and ran its own tests that found formaldehyde air levels to be within OSHA’s limits, but it failed to return The Oregonian’s phone calls. The company’s website had previously claimed the products were formaldehyde free — and Scrutton says she’s glad authorities are investigating after that claim deceived her and others.
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