Hair Curling Health Worries Linked to Straighteners

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A popular procedure many women are having to straighten their hair could be risky. Now, one group is getting ready to ask the federal government to regulate the process. (Published Tuesday, May 17, 2011)

    Salon and beauty industry workers are calling on lawmakers to pass new legislation that would increase safety measures surrounding hair straighteners that contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

    Many women swear by straightening processes -- and some are unaware of the potentially toxic chemicals some professional straighteners include. 

    Curly-haired SoHo writer Michelle Bender used to get her hair straightened but now she thinks the process is hazardous.

    "Even though I liked the way it looked, I got burns on my scalp,"  she said.

    On Wednesday, some women's advocates and California salon workers will bring their hair-raising horror stories before the congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

    They are advocating lawmakers enact the Safe Cosmetics Act. The measure would ban the use of known carcinogens as ingredients and beef up FDA authority to recall personal-care products.

    Even those among the famous have been scared straight. In an interview with The New York Times Style magazine,  "Weeds" star Mary-Louise Parker said her hair fell out after a Brazilian hair-straightening treatment.

    A report released last month by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder, the Environmental Working Group, detailed unpublished FDA documents showing dozens of reports of injuries and adverse effects for salon workers and clients going back two years. 

    Brielle Morelli, a hair stylist at Mairead's salon in Hillsdale, N.J., said she thinks straightening products are better than they were a few years ago.

    "They had masks for me and the client," she said when she told us about her first instruction in using a straightener. 

    California has filed suit against the maker of the Brazilian Blowout for false advertising, alleging formaldehyde was found in the product. The company has stated that is untrue. 

    Ten members of Congress, including New York Rep. Nita Lowey of White Plains, sent a letter urging the FDA to institute a voluntary recall of formaldehyde straighteners.  Under current U.S. law the FDA cannot issue a mandatory recall.