relaxers, fda, toxic chemicals

Pressure From Black Congresswomen Leads To FDA-Proposed Crackdown On Toxic Chemicals In Relaxers

After pressure by U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Shontel Brown (D-OH) to ensure the safety of chemical hair straightening products, known as relaxers, to the public, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing new legislation that may shake up the hair industry.

The FDA is proposing a crackdown on formaldehyde found in the ingredients of many relaxer products, and it is considering a ban on the usage, including chemicals that release the toxic gas. Pressley, who revealed to the public of her diagnosis of alopecia in 2020, applauded the FDA in a statement to The Root.

“The FDA’s proposal to ban these harmful chemicals in hair straighteners and relaxers is a win for public health–especially the health of Black women who are disproportionately put at risk by these products as a result of systemic racism and anti-Black hair sentiment,” Pressley said.

Pressley said this win will greatly impact Black women, who have historically undergone the chemical procedure on their hair amidst pressure to adhere to Westernized beauty standards.

The elected officials wrote a letter in March to FDA highlighting the “extreme politicization” of hair that has led to the widespread usage of harmful relaxers to achieve a more publicly accepted style.

“As a result of anti-Black hair sentiment, Black women have been unfairly subjected to scrutiny and forced to navigate the extreme politicization of hair,” they wrote. “Hence, generations of Black women have adapted by straightening hair in an attempt to achieve social and economic advancement. Manufacturers of chemical straighteners have gained enormous profits, but recent findings unveil potentially significant negative health consequences associated with these products.”

While no official ban has been enacted, the FDA’s awareness of the toxicity found in relaxers is a step in the right direction, noted Pressley, especially since the harmful chemicals have been linked to cancer and infertility.

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