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Dear Dr. Katz,

My name is Stacy VanDusen and I have been a manicurist for 23 years. About two years ago, I started to develop severe migraines. I have had migraines in the past, but they have always been hormonal and I haven’t had one of those in years. These migraines are very different, and for some reason they would always come on while I was at work. My entire head will be in so much pain that it feels like my head is going to explode. I get really nauseous and sometimes even throw up. No medicine I take can get rid of this pain. I know I need migraine medication, but I have no health insurance so I can’t afford to go to the doctor for these headaches. The only way I can get rid of them is to crawl into bed and put the blankets over my head to get rid of the light, but that’s very hard to do with a five year old and I’m a single mom.

Not only did I develop migraines, but I also started getting sinus infections for the first time in my life. Even though I have no Health Insurance, I knew when I had an infection I had to break down and go to the county clinic. I haven’t been on antibiotics since I was a kid. Now at 41 years old, I have been on antibiotics four times in the past year and a half because of these reoccurring sinus infections. I also started getting burning eyes, my nose would hurt, and I get a scratchy throat while I’m at work. When I go home for a few days it goes away, and when I go back to work it all comes back. I always have sinus congestion and I have never had that until now. I started to realize this was always happening to me while I was working, but I couldn’t figure out why.

In November 2010, our salon hired a group of girls that I happen to know very well because I worked with them for many years before at a different salon. They would talk about how sick they got at their previous salon from products that contained high levels of formaldehyde, and even quit their jobs because of it. A lot of the symptoms they were describing were the same exact symptoms that I had. I started to read the Hazard Alerts and government warnings that they had posted up in the backroom, and that’s when it all clicked. My unexplainable sinus infections and reoccurring migraines all started when these Hair Smoothing products came into our salon. My burning eyes, nose, scratchy throat, and sinus congestion are all symptoms of formaldehyde exposure.

To see what has happened to our health in such a short period of time is really scary. I would like to see these products out of salons and off the market. I can’t go to work and get sick like this, and think this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. The career that I chose is perfect for me because I’m a single mom and I make my own hours so I can be home when I need to. If I continue to get exposed to these products I’m going to have to look for another job because I can’t keep doing this. These products are messing with people’s lives here. What if I get cancer down the road from formaldehyde exposure? I’ll have no money, no insurance, and who’s going to take care of my child? Please do what you have to do to get these products off the market. They shouldn’t be in the salon, putting innocent people’s lives at risk.

Stacy VanDusen