Personal care company Hask Beauty could soon find itself embroiled in legal action over allegations that its popular shampoo products require cancer warning labels that are not being provided to consumers. A recent notice of violation aims to compel Hask to either settle the claims or potentially face a Proposition 65 lawsuit in California court.
Consumer Advocacy Group Issues Stern 60-Day Notice
On November 24, 2021, law firm Brodsky & Smith issued a strict 60-day notice on behalf of their client, Precila Balabbo, accusing Hask of violating California’s Proposition 65 regulations. Known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Proposition 65 mandates warnings for consumer products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
Brodsky & Smith specifically alleges that Hask shampoos contain high levels of the chemical cocamide DEA, which is listed under Proposition 65 as a carcinogen. However, Hask does not provide any clear warnings about this on its product labels or marketing materials.
Violations Could Trigger Litigation Seeking Penalties
The notice gives Hask 60 days to either settle the violations or face the possibility of legal action. Specifically, it seeks three remedies:
- Recall shampoos already sold lacking proper warnings
- Reformulate products or provide compliant warnings
- Pay appropriate civil penalties
If Hask fails to satisfy these demands, Brodsky & Smith says they will file a lawsuit on behalf of Balabbo seeking injunctions and monetary damages under Proposition 65. Thousands of similar cases have resulted in large settlements against major companies over the years.
Shampoo Use Leads to Repeated Exposure, Group Warns
In the notice, Brodsky & Smith points to normal use of Hask’s shampoos as the cause of concerning cocamide DEA exposures. It states:
“The primary route of exposure is through dermal contact during recommended use of the shampoo. Some ingestion can also occur through hand to mouth contact after touching the products.”
The notice warns that repeated exposure to a listed carcinogen without proper warnings denies Californians the ability to make informed decisions to minimize risks.
Hask Shampoo Sold Nationwide, Expanding Potential Liability
With distribution through major retailers like Target, Walmart and Amazon, Hask shampoos are sold nationwide. Therefore, the potential class size encompassed by the threatened litigation could be enormous.
Hundreds of thousands of customers who purchased the offending shampoo products could theoretically share in any settlement or award resulting from a successful Proposition 65 lawsuit.
Company Remains Silent So Far
Thus far, Hask has not issued any public comment on the notice of violation or potential litigation. The company will need to analyze the cocamide DEA testing results and make a determination on how best to proceed.
Some options include disputing the allegations, settling the notice privately, or negotiating a swift reformulation of its shampoos. However, continued inaction will likely spur Brodsky & Smith to follow through on its litigation threat.
Consumer Groups Urge Caution Until Issue Resolved
While Hask weighs its response, public health groups advise caution for consumers until more details emerge. Anthony Lemper of the California Consumer Council said:
“When credible allegations like this arise about a major personal care product, we suggest exercising caution until the company provides full transparency. If exposures to a chemical like cocamide DEA are occurring, people have a right to know in order to weigh their risks.”
For now, the ball is in Hask’s court to address assertions that its shampoos require cancer warnings. How the company chooses to respond will become clearer as the 60-day notice period comes to a close in the coming weeks.