USFDA Proposes Ban on Formaldehyde in Hair Relaxers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has taken action to ban the use of formaldehyde in hair relaxers, a crucial step in addressing the potential health risks associated with these products. The proposed rule aims to eliminate the presence of this harmful chemical in hair-smoothing and hair-straightening products, also known as relaxers, with a target date for implementation set for April. 

Currently, the USFDA does not require approval for cosmetic products and their ingredients before they enter the market. While companies and individuals selling these products are legally responsible for ensuring their safety, there is no federal requirement for them to share safety information with the FDA. 

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas used in various household products, including medicines and cosmetics. However, its toxic properties are well-documented, with repeated exposure capable of causing irritation to the eyes, skin, lungs, and throat. More alarmingly, it has been linked to certain cancers, including myeloid leukemia. Even products not primarily containing formaldehyde may include other ingredients that, when heated, release formaldehyde, such as methylene glycol found in some hair-straightening products. Moreover, formalin, which is formaldehyde dissolved in water, can be found in certain soaps, shampoos, lotions, and cleaning products.

Recent research has shed light on the potential dangers of chemical hair relaxers. A National Institutes of Health study revealed that women who used such chemicals frequently were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer. Formaldehyde, parabens, and other ingredients in these products may contribute to this increased risk. A Boston University Study, which has tracked the health of 59,000 Black women for decades, found that long-term use of chemical hair straighteners increased the risk of uterine cancer among postmenopausal Black women. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology linked the use of these products to lower fertility in women. As a result, several Black women have filed lawsuits against major cosmetic brands, including Revlon and L’Oréal, alleging that hair-straightening products caused them to develop uterine cancer, breast cancer, infertility, and other health complications.

In addition to the proposed ban, advocacy efforts, such as the CROWN Act, have gained momentum, representing a crucial step in addressing the systemic biases against natural Black hair. 

It may be noted litigations are pending in the US, against Dabur India Limited subsidiaries – Namaste Laboratories LLC (Namaste), Dermoviva Skin Essentials Inc. (Dermoviva) and Dabur International Ltd. (DINTL), all of which are subsidiaries of Dabur India Limited for the same

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