Contrary to recent media reports, the Brazilian Blowout hair treatment is safe for use.
Oregon OSHA and Federal OSHA had already attacked Brazilian Blowout’s product, steering the media to focus on faulty aspects of their respective studies, and burying the truth — that the product does not release formaldehyde in amounts that exceed state or federal short-term or long-term exposure limits.
Enter Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D – 3 – OR). Ontheissues.org labels him a “hard-core Liberal”, and you know what that means when it comes to anything involving chemicals or the environment. Rep. Blumenauer sponsored nonsensical bills like HR 3311 that taxes drivers based on miles driven; a ludicrous bill to jump-start the funding of streetcars; a bill to establish under-the-radar death panels; a bill providing environmental education grants for outdoor experiences (huh?); and even one quashing free speech by attempting to ban a website promoting the perfectly safe Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.
So Rep. Blumenauer reads about OSHA’s nonsense in the media and, because he’s a politician, doesn’t do his research, either. Nor does he bother contacting the company to get their side of the story. Instead, he grandstands by penning a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking that they recall the product — a product already proven to meet OSHA standards!
I asked Rep. Blumenauer’s press secretary, Derek Schlickeisen, about this approach to policy. His assertion was that politicians “can’t have a chemist on staff”, and thus rely on OSHA’s scientists to bring incidents like this to light. When I mentioned that the company-funded study by Health Science Associates showed formaldehyde levels below OSHA standards, he inferred that the study held little weight because it was company funded.
Yet why is it that OSHA’s results are given any more credibility, especially when OSHA caused a panic based entirely on a faulty sample? Are we to believe that OSHA scientists are somehow free of ideological bias? Kermit McCarthy, one of the authors of the Oregon OSHA study, “likes” hard-core Liberal Sen. Ron Wyden according to his Facebook page. Why isn’t his bias questioned? If anything, a government worker is likely more biased than a private company to insert bias, because his very job depends on his work generating a result that permits the government to do something. Otherwise, the agency’s existence, and the employee’s, have no purpose.
The FDA: Where Nonsense Meets Politics
Now the drama turns to the FDA, which should operate as an independent agency, but doesn’t. It’s a political entity, and when a politician writes them a letter, they have to do something. So they take several months to decide what to do. In the interim, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel effectively came down on the side of the company, saying:
“We urge FDA to work expeditiously with OSHA and appropriate state and local organizations to objectively determine if salon hair smoothing products emit levels of formaldehyde gas that are unsafe for consumers or salon workers under their intended conditions of use and taking into consideration salon ventilation practices [emphasis mine]”.
Meanwhile, FDA spokesman Arthur Whitmore confirmed that the FDA never conducted its own air sampling, which its Investigations Operations Manual permits. Instead, Mr. Whitmore confirmed that the FDA “…did conduct experiments to simulate what occurs in a salon setting by heating the product at various temperatures and measuring formaldehyde production.” But how much of the product did the FDA heat up? The amount used in a treatment? More? Less? And what about ventilation? Did the FDA consider that salons are ventilated and whatever gross amount of formaldehyde that may have been released in a simulated situation does not in any way reflect reality?
Starting to see problems with the FDA’s approach? I am. This is ironic, considering the FDA’s own manual reads:
“4.1.3 – Responsibility. Collect every sample as if you will be required to testify in court about everything you did concerning each and every event surrounding the sample collection. Mistakes or deficiencies, however trivial they may seem, can fatally damage the government’s case. Be objective, accurate, and thorough.”
Even worse, Mr. Whitmore said:
“FDA used information from a number of sources to support the warning letter including data obtained by Oregon OSHA, Federal OSHA, Health Canada, and FDA’s own laboratory studies. FDA data was obtained using HPLC and mass spectrometry, and it agreed with the data obtained from other sources. It also agreed with a recent study published in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene”
This is known as “fruit of the poisonous tree”, in that it relied on data I have proven to be inaccurate and misleading in my previous articles. In my next article, I also debunk the cited Journal study (it used more product than directed).
Nevertheless, the FDA had all of the following to examine:
- Oregon OSHA report showing the product is safe.
- Federal OSHA report showing the product is safe.
- Health Sciences Associates report showing the product is safe.
- It’s own guide to chemicals that shows methylene glycol and formaldehyde are different substances.
- A Liberal environmentalist politician’s letter asking them to ban the product.
- Heavily biased media reports.
And what does the FDA do?
And yet another round of media hysteria follows….in which the company is granted one sentence in each report, “denying the allegations”.
Company Fights Back; Media is Silent
In truth, Brazilian Blowout agreed to cooperate with the FDA to demonstrate that the product was neither adulterated nor misleading, and although they disagreed with the FDA over whether or not their product was considered “formaldehyde free”, they removed that language from their product.
Still, not a single media outlet has asked the company about their side of the story.
In fact, the company’s response letter to the FDA laid out a coherent and comprehensive rebuttal to the agency (available for review). In short, the company presented all the evidence presented in this series along with two other major points. First, they insist the product is not “adulterated” because it doesn’t “contain a deleterious substance that may render it injurious to users under the contradiction of use prescribed in its labeling”. In other words, if people (and OSHA) use the product as directed, no injurious substance gets released. Second, in relying on OSHA’s data, the FDA relied on a third party’s inferior method of sampling formaldehyde, a method that itself actually produces formaldehyde!
Now we turn to the media coverage of this forceful response.
The Perfect Storm
I’ve repeatedly stated that I conducted this investigation as a real journalist should have. The truth is available for those who seek it — and it is available cheaply, easily, and rapidly. That the mainstream media has repeatedly presented the government’s untenable position regarding this product, and ignored the other side of the story, goes beyond the excuse that “fear sells”. Rather, they have pro-actively partnered in a Liberal environmentalist vendetta against a successful hair product company.
This sordid affair is demonstrative not only of the media’s own Leftist bias, but the problem of government. Don’t tell me there isn’t bias inside a government agency, especially in this Administration and especially in Oregon. What does it say when a politician doesn’t even have to conduct his own due diligence, and instead just points to a government agency, and use their findings as gospel even if proven to be flawed, and then leverage that to engage yet another government entity to try and kill a business?
It says that government is over-reaching and harming private businesses –in this case, hair product companies, salons, and stylists. Why isn’t Rep. Blumenauer being held to account for attacking a company without doing his due diligence? Where is OSHA’s accountability? Where is that agency’s checks and balances?
I’ve at least injected enough doubt into this mess to demonstrate that the government is no longer working for us. It’s working against us.
Next time: I’ll present a definitive study that acquits the company’s position and present yet another flawed study — this one by a private entity. The contrast will shock you.