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California attorney general files suit over the Brazilian Blowout's claims to be formaldehyde-free

November 12, 2010 |  4:46 pm

The controversy over the hair-straightening treatment known as the Brazilian Blowout continues. On Wednesday, the California attorney general's office filed suit against the North Hollywood company that manufactures and sells the hair product, saying in the complaint that it seeks to “remedy the failure of the defendant to warn consumers and cosmetic workers and to inform the State Department of Public Health that the popular Brazilian Blowout brand salon treatment product Acai Professional Smoothing Solution contains high levels of formaldehyde.”

The complaint also states that although the Brazilian Blowout website says the salon treatment will confer “smooth, healthy, frizz-free hair with radiant shine” through use of a smoothing solution containing “no harsh chemicals,” laboratory tests belie the company’s chemical safety claims.

According to the complaint, during ordinary use, Acai Professional Smoothing Solution contains high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that can cause various ailments, including stinging eyes and respiratory problems, and is linked to cancer. The complaint seeks to remedy what it calls the defendants’ alleged "deceptive identification, advertising and promotion of the solution as 'formaldehyde-free', 'hyde-free', 'salon safe' or 'safe.' "

In October, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division reported that after two rounds of testing, it had found high levels of formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, even in containers  labeled "formaldehyde free." Health Canada also said that its investigators found the Brazilian Blowout solution to contain formaldehyde at levels above those considered safe. As a result, Health Canada recommended that stylists stop using the product. Several California agencies are testing and investigating the product as well. 

In an interview Thursday, GIB LLC/Brazilian Blowout Chief Executive Mike Brady said that the product is safe and contains only a trace amount of formaldehyde, well below federal safety standards. He faulted Oregon OSHA's testing methods. "They're trying to find a gas within a liquid product, which is very hard to do," he said. He said his company is taking legal action against Oregon OSHA, but "as weird as it sounds, we kind of welcome the attorney general here's participation ... With the resources of the attorney general here in the state of California, they can conduct proper tests and prove again and validate the safety of the product."

Mike Wood of Oregon OSHA said his agency is standing by its report. 

-- Alene Dawson

Photo: A salon client has a Brazilian Blowout straightening treatment. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times