FDA to consider banning formaldehyde in hair straightening products claiming cancer link

The proposed rule would ban formaldehyde (FA) and other FA-releasing chemicals from being used as an ingredient in hair smoothing or hair straightening products marketed in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it may ban the use of formaldehyde in hair straightening and hair smoothing products citing a possible link to uterine cancer.

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The FDA’s consideration of the proposal for the ban was included in the Unified Agenda, a government registry of actions that administrative agencies plan to issue.

The proposed rule would ban formaldehyde (FA) and other FA-releasing chemicals from being used as an ingredient in hair smoothing or hair straightening products marketed in the United States.

Frequent use of hair-straightening products that include chemicals like formaldehyde has been found in studies to put women at a higher risk for uterine cancer, the FDA said.

According to the proposal, the use of hair smoothing products containing FA and FA-releasing chemicals is linked to short-term adverse health effects, such as sensitization reactions and breathing problems, and long-term adverse health effects, including an increased risk of certain cancers.

A study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found women who self-reported frequent use of hair straightening products were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than women who did not use the products.

However, scientists warn that it’s not clear yet if these products cause cancer, but only hints at a probable link.

The study posted last year found that Black women may be more affected by the increased risk of uterine cancer not because of their race, but due to the fact that they use chemical hair straightening products at a higher rate. A tighter rate is defined as using the product more than four times in the previous year.

The study included more than 33,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74.

“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” Dr. Alexandra White, the study’s lead author, said.

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