This was an interesting day – my first deposition in a lawsuit.
Butler Pappas is the law firm representing Lornamead in this lawsuit, which I filed in Federal Court.
Lornamead is the maker of Aqua Net hairspray, and my lawsuit alleges that one of the ingredients in Aqua Net, Cyclohexylamine (listed officially as an extremely hazardous substance), caused a strong skin reaction similar to hives, strong itching, nausea, vomiting, a serious and life-threatening heart problem called A-fib (atrial fibrillation), loss of consciousness, and a hospital bill of over $35,000, and more. Luckily this incident didn’t actually kill me.
Today’s deposition was for an attorney from Butler Pappas to gather as much information as possible from me for their defense against my lawsuit. Initially estimated to take 4 hours, it ran a little over 5 hours, with a few breaks thrown in.
In essence their position seems to be that:
- Lornamead doesn’t believe that Cyclohexylamine caused the symptoms
- That they are using less Cyclohexylamine in their hairspray than is deemed toxic by the industry and US government
- That they are not responsible for testing their product in the real world as long as it meets government and industry guidelines
- That I have no medical proof that the Cyclohexylamine caused the symptoms
- That there was no scientific testing done which proves that there was Cyclohexylamine in my bloodstream when I had the symptoms
There is of course an underlying and unstated position as well – whether or not they believe me, they cannot afford to admit that Aqua Net hairspray causes Cyclohexylamine poisoning. If they did, it would open the floodgates for many other lawsuits from people who may have been poisoned by this, or have lost loved ones due to such poisoning. (Consider why Big Tobacco fought so hard and long to deny the effects of tobacco.)
The deposition went over a lot of information on my life, my history of using Aqua Net hairspray, and specific incidents and facts.
A lot of emphasis was placed on questions relating to Material Safety Data Sheets on Cyclohexylamine, and on the concentration of Cyclohexylamine in Aqua Net hairspray, and on trying to get me to admit that the concentration was below the ‘safe’ concentration levels.
I pointed out that there aren’t actually any ‘safe’ concentration levels set – there are ‘toxic’ concentration levels at or beyond which it is known to be toxic. This does not mean or even imply that concentrations below the known ‘toxic’ concentration level are ‘safe’.
More disturbing to the deposing attorney was my response when she asked what I deemed ‘safe’ or what I deemed to be ‘toxic’ concentration levels in Aqua Net hairspray. It was a good and pertinent question, and is very relevant to this case, but my response was not what she wanted to hear.
As I explained, there is no simple answer to this, and I don’t know the answer to her question. Furthermore, and more disturbing, her client (Lornamead) doesn’t know the answer either. I asked them in written form about this over the last months as part of the discovery process in this lawsuit. And they replied that they don’t know, and that it is nearly impossible to determine, but that they are within industry and government guidelines. Translation: We didn’t do it. If we did do it, we are not responsible because the government said it was OK.
Here are some of the factors involved in the ‘concentration levels’ question:
There is an initial concentration level of Cyclohexylamine in Aqua Net hairspray when it is manufactured. This may or may not change before it is sold to the consumer. But let’s assume that it is initially below known ‘toxic’ levels and remains constant until the consumer buys the product.
The concentration levels may go up or may decline as the content of the product is used. This depends on whether the Cyclohexylamine is evenly distributed inside the product. It might settle near the top or bottom or otherwise vary in concentration over time.
Then there is the question of what happens after it leaves the can and is sprayed in aerosol form onto your hair. Does the Cyclohexylamine evaporate before it reaches your hair?
If it does, this is somewhat disturbing as Cyclohexylamine is particularly toxic when inhaled. If it doesn’t, then it ends up on your hair, where the aerosol drops dry up and the residue holds your hair.
When I pointed out that the concentration level of the residue rises as the liquid part of the aerosol drops evaporates, I was asked how I know this. I replied that this is elementary physics, and explained this in simple terms. I was then asked a string of questions as to whether I was a physicist, a chemist, had laboratory training, had testified as an expert witness in lawsuits, etc. I haven’t of course, but this doesn’t change the laws of physics. When the solvent in a solution evaporates, the concentration level of the solute obviously rises, as is easily demonstrated.
And therein lies the problem. Lornamead and their lawyers don’t know what the concentration of Cyclohexylamine is after the hairspray has been sprayed onto your hair, and has dried. They don’t know what happens to the concentration of Cyclohexylamine if the dried residue is dissolved by sweat on your scalp. They don’t know whether it appears in toxic levels at this point.
They haven’t done the research on this, and haven’t tested it. They have told me in writing that they don’t know and haven’t tested this.
Unfortunately, I unwittingly tested this on myself.
I have concluded from many instances of personal experience that Aqua Net hairspray contains concentrations of Cyclohexylamine sufficient to cause severe and life-threatening Cyclohexylamine poisoning when sweat dissolves it during exercise, and spreads it from your hair onto your skin. The symptoms observed include severe skin reactions similar to hives, with strong itching, nausea and vomiting, heart arrhythmia (such as atrial fibrillation), kidney damage and loss of consciousness.
The Judge in this case recently ordered the case to mediation. So we shall see what happens next – but I look forward to discussing this with them in mediation.