Formaldehyde, OSHA and Hair Straightening Products – What’s up?
In September of this year the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its second hazard alert to hair salon owners and employees about possible formaldehyde exposure when working with some hair straightening and smoothing products.
Hairdressing salon owners who choose to use hair straightening and smoothing products that contain or release formaldehyde are now required by OSHA to perform air quality tests while using these products. If formaldehyde is found to be present at higher levels than OSHA’s limits during any 15-minute period, then the salon owner is required to jump through quite a few hoops in order to keep workers and clients safe. Salon owners must follow OSHA’s formaldehyde standard if they are to use, manufacture, import or distribute the products.
Formaldehyde is a cancer hazard at certain levels. It can also cause allergic reactions or irritation to the lungs, eyes and the skin. Beauty salon owners and employees need to be properly trained when using hair straightening and smoothing products. The level of formaldehyde exposure in any given salon is determined by a number of factors such as salon size and ventilation, along with treatment applications, blow-dry and flat iron times. Suitable ventilation and observance to proper procedure will result in lower levels of gas being released into the air.
OSHA issues citations against hair salons, manufacturers and distributors
In September 2011, OSHA issued citations to two Florida manufacturers and distributors for failing to protect their own employees to possible formaldehyde exposure as well as the failure to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde to salon owners, hair stylists and the public consumers. They have also issued 23 citations with fines up to $17,500. to salon owners and beauty schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut,, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, for failing to protect their workers from overexposure and potential exposure to formaldehyde.
OSHA is requiring that if salons are going to use these products, they must be aware to use protective measures such as air monitoring and training. Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA says, “What is very troubling to the agency is that some of these products clearly expose workers to formaldehyde even when the label states they are ‘formaldehyde free.’”
“The best way to control exposure to formaldehyde is to use products that do not contain formaldehyde. Salons should check the label or product information to make sure it does not list formaldehyde, formalin, methylene glycol or any of the other names for formaldehyde,” said Michaels. “If salon owners decide to use products that contain or release formaldehyde, then they must follow a number of protective practices — including air monitoring, worker training and, if levels are over OSHA limits, good ventilation or respirators.”
The industry fights back
Keratin Complex has announced plans to dispute OSHA’s allegations that their products do not comply with OSHA’s safety standards. Larry Solomon, president of Keratin Complex says, “We disagree with OSHA’s inflammatory and inaccurate report and we are asking for a full retraction.” Keratin Complex not only complies with all OSHA standards but we meet or exceed their safety standards and requirements.”
Now the folks behind Keratin Complex and other Professional Keratin Smoothing Council (PKSC) members are lobbying for OSHA to adopt newer, more accurate testing methods in addition to carrying out accurate air quality tests in salons. Their claim is that OSHA used an older technology method that chemically changes the composition of the product.
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