News Science and space 04-12-2024 at 14:42 comment views icon

Goodbye, «keratin». Some hair straightening products will be banned in the US, but the rest are not too safe

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Kateryna Danshyna

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Goodbye, «keratin». Some hair straightening products will be banned in the US, but the rest are not too safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to ban the use of formaldehyde in currently popular hair straightening products at the end of April, but experts say that this is not enough «not enough».

Formaldehyde (formalin or methylene glycol in liquid forms) — a known human carcinogen that has been linked to various types of cancer (such as leukemia or nasopharyngeal cancer) if used for a long time or in large quantities. The substance can also cause respiratory problems — this includes the onset and exacerbation of asthma in adults and children. Formaldehyde is also thought to potentially increase the risks of fertility problems and miscarriages.

As an active ingredient, formaldehyde is already banned in Brazil, Canada, and the EU — but is still widely used in hair straightening products in the United States. Currently, according to the New York City Department of Health, there are more than 150 formaldehyde-containing products on the market. At the same time, the expected FDA ban is not enough to make such products safe, experts say, interviewed by Live Science.

So, how does formaldehyde work in hair straightening products?

During the procedure, the specialized products are heated, and the substance itself is released into the air as a vapor — both clients and the nail technician may experience skin irritation, burning eyes, or coughing. These are the short-term symptoms — the long-term symptoms were mentioned above.

The FDA advises clients to ask the technician about the composition of the straightening product or to check the labels themselves for references to formaldehyde or its alternative names But: since formaldehyde is formed in the process — it may not be mentioned in the composition of. So you should pay attention to such names as: timonacic acid, dimethoxymethane, decamethyl-cyclopentasiloxane (they emit formaldehyde when heated and may also be banned in the United States in the future).

Not formaldehyde alone

Glyoxylic acid is often touted as a safer alternative to formaldehyde — but it has also been linked to kidney damage in some unofficial reports. At the same time, the substance is widely used in the production of flavors, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals.

«There may be chemicals out there that we don’t really have enough health information to evaluate [in certain contexts], and people are putting them on their heads,» says Tracy Woodruff, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco.

Some hair straightening products that are usually formaldehyde-free have nevertheless been linked to cancer types such as uterine and ovarian cancer

Jasmine McDonald, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said. Some studies have shown that these products can contain heavy metals, as well as phthalates and parabens, which can sometimes interfere with human hormones.

In fact, the ban will primarily be aimed at protecting the nail technicians themselves, who are most exposed to long-term formaldehyde exposure. The FDA’s decision could also serve as a precedent for the elimination of other chemicals of concern, such as those used in perms.

«A person does not need to be aware, for example, that formaldehyde — is a carcinogen. An automatic safe choice of» should be created for them,” McDonald said.

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