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Hair straightening products may release formaldehyde, OSHA warns

April 13, 2011

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Washington – Hair salon owners and workers should be aware of potential formaldehyde exposure from certain hair smoothing products, according to an OSHA hazard alert issued April 11.

The alert summarizes OSHA’s investigations into the products, health hazards of formaldehyde and protective measures.

In response to worker complaints, federal OSHA and several state programs are investigating hair smoothing products. One investigation found a product with formaldehyde levels that exceeded OSHA limits for a salon even though the product was labeled formaldehyde-free, an OSHA press release said.

Oregon OSHA and Connecticut’s Department of Public Health issued warnings on the products last year, while the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited an importer and distributer for failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on product labels and Material Safety Data Sheets.

Exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, skin, nose and upper respiratory tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Formaldehyde also has been linked to cancer.

OSHA recommended that salon owners avoid using products containing formaldehyde and related chemicals. Owners who decide to use such products must follow OSHA’s formaldehyde standard, which requires air monitoring, ventilation, worker training and protective equipment.

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