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Health Canada issues yet another warning over Brazilian blowouts

This Feb. 3, 2011 file photo shows Adriana Guedes as she has her hair straightened by hair dresser Tania Machado at a salon in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Brazilian Blowout surfaced around 2005 in Brazil, where a combination of high humidity and a largely mixed-race, curly haired population made for a nation of eager customers. It soon spread throughout North America and Europe.

Felipe Dana/AP

Health Canada is sounding the alarm over a new batch of straightening treatments, often referred to as Brazilian blowouts or keratin solutions, over fears they contain high amounts of formaldehyde.

The department issued a warning Tuesday that 11 additional products have been found to contain higher-than-permitted levels of formaldehyde, following similar warnings issued in recent months. Despite widespread concerns that emerged last fall over high amounts of formaldehyde in professional straightening treatments, it is clear many of the products are still being used in salons in Canada.

Formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, is permitted as a preservative for cosmetics in Canada, but cannot exceed 0.2 per cent of the product. Some of the products tested by Health Canada have as much as 8.4 per cent formaldehyde. The department has received reports of burning eyes, nose, throat and hair loss associated with Brazilian and keratin straightening products.

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The treatments, available almost exclusively at salons, emerged as a trendy, albeit expensive, option for long-term hair straightening in the past few years. But a research lab in the United States had raised concerns they contain formaldehyde after conducting tests.

While many consumers have turned away from the treatments, others say they're not fazed by the health concerns.

Other salons say they have been given formaldehyde-free versions of the product, but subsequent Health Canada warnings cast significant doubt about all of these types of straightening products.

Have the recent health warnings scared you away from this go-to hair treatment? Or is it business as usual when you hit the salon?

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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