The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Women’s Voices for the Earth has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to regulate certain hair straightening products containing formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, or releasing the chemical during the course of treatment.

Formaldehyde has been listed as a known human carcinogen since 2011 by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and internationally by the World Health Organization, since 2006. It is used in a lot of common products, including plywood, particleboard and laminate flooring, “wrinkle-free” clothing, glues, and tobacco smoke. It is also used in hair straightening products like the common “Brazilian blowout” or keratin hair treatment. Even some products that have been labeled “formaldehyde-free” have been found to release large amounts of gaseous formaldehyde – another common straightening chemical called methylene glycol releases formaldehyde gas into the air when it’s heated with a blow dryer and flatiron.

Formaldehyde, on top of being carcinogenic,  is a respiratory irritant that can cause major problems like asthma, pulmonary edema, bronchitis, nose bleeds. Hair stylists and salon workers experience respiratory related health complications routinely when working with these products; it is also common to experience dizziness and headaches when working with these products.

The lawsuit comes after nearly ten years of conversation between the EWG and the FDA. The EWG and Women’s Voices for the Earth allege that the FDA has failed to protect workers and their clients from exposure despite formal requests filed over almost a decade ago. Here is an excerpt from a 2011 press release on the subject, just after DHHS added formaldehyde to its12 report of known human carcinogens:

Inexplicably, FDA continues to drag its feet on hair straighteners, even though it has known of the issue since 2007. It has so far declined to take action against companies making deceptive claims about their hair straighteners’ formaldehyde content or to address related health concerns. FDA officials have said only that they are studying the situation.

SOURCE:EWG Press Release

Resource:14th report on human carcinogens

email-photoNode Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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