WSVN — Women spend millions of dollars and hours in the salon to get perfect hair.
Sandylee Torres: "I have crazy hair. Lots of volume, it's just insane."
Sandylee Torres battled her frizzy hair for years, until she discovered a straightening secret that is taking the U.S. by storm.
Sandylee Torres: "I have nothing now except for shine and just moisturized hair, and I absolutely love it."
It's called Brazilian hair-straightening. There are several manufacturers, but Formaldehyde, a chemical the government says could cause cancer, is what makes some of them work.
Dr. John Shane: "According to the EPA, it is a probable carcinogen."
According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, an independent board of scientific experts, cosmetic products should only have Formaldehyde levels of .2 percent or lower. Although many Brazilian hair-straightening products contain no Formaldehyde at all, we found several that do.
Nadine Ramos: "The Formaldehyde level in my products are 2 percent."
Nadine Ramos distributes one hair straightening product, it contains ten times more Formaldehyde than the CIR-recommended safe level. On the web, we found other products; one admitted it contained 2 percent Formaldehyde.
Another admits 4 percent Formaldehyde, and there are other straighteners on the market too, so Seven News put them to the test.
Sample one came in at 2.28 percent Formaldehyde, another at 1.64 percent, a third had a little less than 1 percent Formaldehyde.
Jose Alberto: "I'm feeling a little nauseous, a little light-headed, my eyes are teary and my throat started to close up."
Stylist Jose Alberto says fumes from a product containing Formaldehyde made everyone in his salon sick.
Jose Alberto: "We also had clients and the rest of the staff start to complain with the same symptoms."
Barbara Schneider was having her hair straightened with a similar product when she got sick.
Barbara Schneider: "The irritation that I had was mostly in my throat area, and it was just a strange feeling."
Dr. John Shane says these are classic symptoms.
Dr. John Shane: "Their eyes burn, their nose burns, that their mouth and throat burn. That's a direct result of the high level of Formaldehyde in the air."
The Brazilian treatment includes using a 450 degree flat iron after the product is applied to the hair. During the flat ironing process, you can clearly see the steam coming off the hair, which means people in the salon could potentially be breathing in Formaldehyde.
Elle Konsevick: "I have to wear a mask and goggles."
Stylist Elle Konsevick started using a mask, gloves and goggles after getting sick during the process. She too used a product with Formaldehyde. In fact, she even offers a mask to her clients.
Dr. John Shane: "The mask that she is using is completely irrelevant. It doesn't protect her from anything."
Carmel Cafiero: "And no one is warning stylists of the danger. The FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, admit they are aware of the high Formaldehyde levels, yet neither agency has issued a warning or a recall. In fact, the FDA says it does not put any restrictions on Formaldehyde in hair products at all."
Seven News spoke to several manufacturers of products that contain Formaldehyde. They all claim their products are safe. They say the amount of Formaldehyde that could go into the air is well below government safety limits.
They also claim, if used properly, the product will not come into contact with the skin, so they do not have to meet the CIR recommendation of .2 percent Formaldehyde, but one CIR member says, experience indicates products applied to the hair will come in contact with the skin.
Jose Alberto: "In five years, in 10 years, in 20 years, it could literally be the death of me."
Jose sent the product back and now refuses to do the treatment. He says it's not worth the Hair Scare.