Note from BW of Brazil: In 2009, the American comedian Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair hit the big screen in American movie theaters. In a comedic manner, the film went behind the scenes to explore the lengths that African-American women went to in order attain what is considered “good hair”, ie, less nappy hair, straight hair or hair that is easier to maintain. The film touched upon beliefs associated with kinky/curly hair, the usage of weaves, wigs, extensions as well as hair straightening products.
In one powerful scene, a scientist showed Rock how the sodium hydroxide used in these products could actually completely disintegrate aluminum by demonstrating on a soft drink can (see video below). Although the case below does not specifically mention the use of sodium hydroxide, the chemical mixture did include guanidine, sodium and lithium. Although complete results connecting the product to the death are still not available, it is still tragic and another reminder of why standards of “good hair” should seriously be re-examined.
Woman dies in Bahia after applying product to straighten hair*
Product based in guanidine, sodium and lithium was applied on December 25
Mellyna Reis of NE10/Bahia, Miriam Hermes of A Tarde.
The Civil Police of Bahia is investigating the death of a resident of Barreiras, 515 miles (830 km) from the capital city of Salvador, which may have been caused by the application of a hair straightener/relaxer. Housewife Maria Cleide Lopes da Silva, 36, died early on Friday (3) at the Eurico Dutra Hospital.
The product based in guanidine, sodium and lithium was applied on December 25th by the hairdresser, the victim’s husband, Matire Oliveira, 46. “I told her not to use this product, but she liked the effect of it,” said the hairdresser, adding that his wife had been relaxing her hair with the product by the Salon Line brand for at least 10 years. Oliveira also highlighted the fact that his wife had applied the product herself (1).
The husband also told police that the woman had started to feel a fever and body aches on the 30th and ended up going to a health care clinic in the city, but was only admitted this Thursday (2) at Eurico Dutra Hospital.
The death certificate of Maria Cleide reports that a poisoning followed by anaphylactic shock was the cause of death. However, the police chief of Barreiras, Francisco Carlos de Sá, responsible for the investigation, requested an autopsy to see if the product presented by the family actually caused the death.
Also according to the delegate, the manufacturer and supplier of hair relaxer will be called to testify. The Vigilância Sanitária (Health Surveillance) of Barreiras has already begun a withdrawal of products from local businesses. The NE10 Bahia news has not been able to contact the manufacturer.
* – Article originally posted on January 4, 2013 and updated on January 5, 2013
1. This could be an important detail in the case. The article by NE 10 didn’t specifically mention this fact while this detail was included in the article by A Tarde.
“Good Hair” ft. Chris Rock- HD Official Trailer
“Good Hair” sodium hydroxide experiment