The claim accuses the cosmetics companies of extensive misconduct, including failing to investigate reports of adverse effects, issue recalls or warn customers and health professionals.
Hair relaxers, used by women with supercurly hair to give a straight appearance, are the target of a proposed class action lawsuit in BC.
Two people have started a legal action against L’Oréal, the company that makes the retail hair product called Dark & Lovely Relaxer, and other companies that make similar products. The legal action says that the products are dangerous and don’t work as they should. This legal action has been filed in a court in Canada and it is the first of its kind in Canada.
What kind of injuries may occur?
These products can cause burns and injuries on the scalp, and may also contain chemicals that can enter the body. The main ingredient in some hair relaxers is a chemical called sodium hydroxide, but others contain different chemicals like calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate.
Products may also contain other chemicals, like phthalates, which are not always listed on the label. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin or breathed in and have been shown to have negative effects on health in some studies. Overall, it can be hard to know exactly what chemicals are in hair relaxers because cosmetics are not as regulated as other products.
What are the recommendations from us?
As with any case where there is the chance that your workplace may pose a hazard, we recommend that you take an inventory of the dangers.
Do you provide relaxing services? If so, here’s a checklist you can follow to minimize your risk:
- Identify and assess the hazardous chemicals used in the hair salon, specifically hair relaxing chemicals.
- Implement appropriate controls, such as using low-odor and low-volatility hair relaxing chemicals, providing adequate ventilation and exhaust systems, and providing personal protective equipment to employees.
- Develop and implement a written hazard communication program (see box below) that includes information on the hazards of hair relaxing chemicals and the proper procedures for handling and storing them.
- Train employees on the hazards associated with hair relaxing chemicals, including proper mixing, application, and disposal, as well as the proper use of personal protective equipment. We recommend obtaining your BeautySafe certification.
- Regularly inspect and maintain equipment, such as mixing bowls and applicator brushes, to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly.
- Establish emergency procedures for chemical spills or leaks and ensure that employees are familiar with these procedures.
- Monitor for potential exposure to hair relaxing chemicals and provide medical surveillance as needed, such as skin and eye exams.
- Review and update the program as necessary to ensure it remains effective and all safety standards are met.
Here is a general outline of what a hazard communication program for hair relaxing chemicals should include:
- A list of hazardous chemicals used in the salon, including hair relaxing chemicals and their specific hazards (e.g. skin and eye irritation, potential for respiratory problems)
- Procedures for the proper handling and storage of hair relaxing chemicals, including:
- Restricting access to chemicals to authorized personnel only
- Using appropriate personal protective equipment when handling chemicals
- Properly labeling and identifying chemical storage areas
- Storing chemicals in their original containers and away from heat sources
- Regularly inspecting storage areas for signs of leaks or damage
- Training programs for employees on the hazards of hair relaxing chemicals and the proper procedures for handling and storing them, including:
- Providing information on the specific hazards of the chemicals used in the salon
- Demonstrating the proper use of personal protective equipment
- Reviewing emergency procedures in the event of a chemical spill or leak
- Procedures for responding to chemical spills or leaks, including:
- Isolating the area and evacuating employees
- Using appropriate clean-up materials and equipment
- Properly disposing of any contaminated materials
- A system for monitoring employee exposure to hair relaxing chemicals and providing medical surveillance as needed.
- A plan for regularly reviewing and updating the program to ensure it remains effective and all safety standards are met.
- Provide emergency contact information
It’s also important to note that this should be reviewed and approved by a professional that can take into account the specific regulations and laws of your location.
Where does the class action go from here?
Other legal actions have been filed in the United States but this is the first in Canada. The companies being sued have not yet responded to the legal action and it has not been confirmed yet if it will be allowed to be a class action lawsuit. The lawyer for the people who started the legal action, Richard Chang, said that similar legal actions may be started in other parts of Canada soon.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and the claim has not been certified as a class action. The defendants have yet to file responses as of the date of this article.