Environmental groups sue FDA, want formaldehyde banned from salon products

A chemical used in popular hair straightening treatments and products is at the center of a lawsuit as environmental groups are demanding the Food and Drug Administration to ban it from salons nationwide.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit that represent several salon workers across the country, the Environmental Working Group and Women's Voices for the Earth, claim formaldehyde poses serious health hazards and may even cause cancer.

"Some of the health dangers are difficulty breathing, asthma," said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group. "Some women have suffered hair loss, rashes on the head and neck, bleeding gums, loss of smell. There is also a cancer risk with formaldehyde."

The chemical is often used in products that straighten, soften and relax hair.

Linda Ndiaye, co-owner of the Rachel Joyce Organic Salon in Washington D.C., said being a formaldehyde-free salon is personal for her.

"My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and from that point on, I kind of knew that I wanted to go ahead and have a holistic lifestyle," she said. "The keratin treatment is usually what consists of that formaldehyde and our keratin treatment does not have the formaldehyde in it."

Luhv Thairapy creator Brittany Ellis said hair products should undergo the same scrutiny as products that are ingested.

"In order to love your hair, you have make sure that you put the right ingredients and natural ingredients in it," Ellis said.

It is not the first time the Environmental Working Group has sued the FDA on this matter.

"We filed a suit in December telling FDA that they need to take action and what FDA said in response is we are looking into it, we are taking action, and we just think that is a really inadequate response," said Benesh.

The latest lawsuit against the FDA was filed on July 28 in federal district court.

The FDA told FOX 5 that they do not comment on pending litigation.