The attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit today alleging that the company that makes the Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening product failed to warn consumers that its solution contains a cancer-causing chemical, despite company claims that it is "formaldehyde-free."
Hair stylists perform the Brazilian Blowout technique at high-end salons and then sell the treatment and accompanying products at their salon.
The suit filed by Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office alleges that the North Hollywood-based Brazilian Blowout company got an unfair edge by selling its solution based on false claims that it is "safe" and "formaldehyde free." The suit also claims that the company violated Proposition 65, a law that calls for signs warning consumers about cancer-causing chemicals.
The suit calls for fines of $2,500 for each violation of unfair business laws and also up to $2,500 for each day that the company failed to warn consumers about the offending chemical.
Tests by Oregon authorities have consistently shown that the solution is made of about eight percent formaldehyde, a level that is hundreds of times higher than accepted amounts.
Monte Devin Semler, Brazilian Blowout company president, could not be reached immediately today. However, he told California Watch in a previous interview that the product is formaldehyde free and added that he can not control the contents of every bottle sold on eBay.
Deputy attorney general Claudia Polsky refuted the suggestion that regulators were finding formaldehyde in knockoff products. In an interview, she said the investigation had included seizures from the company warehouse and product that salon owners bought directly from the company.
“There’s no basis for that,” she said. “This is not black market product, this is product being sold by Brazilian Blowout.”
The high levels of formaldehyde have sparked concern in Oregon [PDF], where the
Occupational Safety and Health Agency and a lab at the Oregon Health & Science University performed tests and found high levels of the chemical.
The discovery of high amounts of formaldehyde set off two class-action lawsuits in the U.S., both filed in California.
Attorney Laura Baughman, with the Dallas-based firm Baron and Budd, filed a suit in Los Angeles on behalf of hair stylists seeking to recoup the cost of the Brazilian Blowout product. Salon owners pay about $700 for enough solution and products for about 20 customers, Baughman said.
“Brazilian Blowout advertised this product as formaldehyde-free and safe and it’s not,” Baughman said. “Any consumer that goes to a store and buys something based on representation that it doesn’t have carcinogens and it does should get their money back.”
Attorneys with the Girard Gibbs firm in San Francisco also filed a class action suit on behalf of a woman who was treated with the solution four times, costing her about $150 to $400 for each treatment.
That woman “would not have purchased any of her Brazilian Blowout treatments had she known that [it] contained formaldehyde,” the lawsuit says.
Polsky, the deputy attorney general, also said the lawsuit marks the first time the state has sued to enforce reporting requirements under its safe cosmetics law, a novel system requiring cosmetics makers to submit reports about harmful chemicals.
The attorney general’s case also seeks to force the company to stop selling the product until adequate warnings are applied and the database report is filed. It was filed today in Alameda Superior Court and is embedded below.