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FDA proposes ban on hair relaxers containing formaldehyde

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Hair

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a ban on using formaldehyde as an ingredient in making hair relaxers.

This step is huge because it creates awareness about the potential harm these ingredients create for black women who use them.

This proposed rule will ban the use of formaldehyde and related chemicals in all hair-strengthening products called relaxers.

According to a fact sheet, the FDA currently discourages all consumers from buying and using relaxers containing formaldehyde or related ingredients.

The current law doesn’t require the FDA to approve cosmetics or ingredients used in cosmetics before they go out into the market except for colorants.

However, companies and people selling products have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products.

According to the Center of Drug Control and Prevention, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas used in a variety of household products.

It is highly toxic. When these products are heated, formaldehyde gas is released into the air.

Breathing in the gas causes immediate reactions like irritation to the eye and throat, chest pain to more long-term problems like frequent headaches, asthma, skin irritation, allergies, and cancers.

Even products that don’t contain formaldehyde when heated can convert to formaldehyde, such as methylene glycol and formalin. These are found in relaxers, shampoos, and soaps.

Last year, a study published by the National Institute of Health found that women who used hair relaxers more than four times in the previous year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to women who didn’t.

The study didn’t collect information on specific brands or ingredients but pointed out that formaldehyde, parabens, and other ingredients in relaxers may contribute to the increased uterine cancer risk.

Another study published this month by the Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study which tracks 59,000 women found that post-menopausal women who used relaxers long-term were at a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.

The lead author added that these products are very poorly regulated stating that they just put fragrances and preservatives on the label so black women don’t know what they are exposed to.

Several black women have sued big hair brands like Revlon, L’Oréal, and other brands alleging that their relaxers and straightening products have caused them to develop uterine cancer, breast cancer, infertility, and other health issues.

The ban comes after an open letter was written asking the agency to investigate whether relaxers contained carcinogens that increased the risk of uterine cancer.

The target date for the proposed ban is April 2024.

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