Local hair salon says they protect customers during chemical hair straightening

Posted at 12:24 PM, Dec 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-16 17:09:13-05

SAN DIEGO - A lawsuit claims the Food and Drug Administration is not doing its part to keep salon workers and customers safe from dangerous chemicals used during hair straightening treatments.

The Smoothbar in Hillcrest specializes exclusively in chemical-based hair straightening treatments, but despite working in that environment five days a week, stylist Megan Mccleery said she's never had an issue.

"All services in the hair industry, every single one of them, are going to have some kind of chemical; it's no worse than hair spray," she said.

On Wednesday, the consumer advocate group Environmental Working Group (EWG) filed a lawsuit against the FDA, citing the dangers associated with chemicals like formaldehyde -- a known carcinogen -- that are released into the air when popular hair straightening treatments like the Brazilian Blowout are heated.

"Burning eyes, sore throat, bloody noses, those are documented health effects," said Jamie McConnell of Voices for Women's Earth, a party to the lawsuit against the FDA.

Smoothbar owner Stacey Zayas claims they're the only salon in the country with a system intended to extract hazardous fumes created by the hair treatments from the air. She said clients who suffered adverse health effects at other salons have no problem at The Smoothbar, including one she said had been getting seizures after getting the chemical straightening process elsewhere.

"She's been here several times and she never had a seizure episode while getting them done here," Zayas said.

EWG claims the product can be absorbed into the scalp with or without being inhaled and it can cause skin irritation. The EWG recommends stopping the use of all chemical straighteners, and the group says only a flat-iron is safe because it's chemical-free.

"We're not talking about removing 100 percent of the chemicals," said Zayas. "We're making it as safe as it can be."