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OSHA Continues to Cite Beauty Salons, Manufacturers for Formaldehyde Exposure

Source: OSHA

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Posted on 08 Dec 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing its efforts to protect workers from the dangers of formaldehyde exposure.

In November, OSHA issued citations and fines to two salons for failing to implement precautions to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde when using certain hair-smoothing products. Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard. Salon owners who decide to use products that may contain or release formaldehyde must follow the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards to keep workers safe.

"We want to make sure that salon owners are aware that if they use these products, they have to implement protective measures such as air monitoring and training," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "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.'"

OSHA continues to respond to complaints and referrals of formaldehyde exposure in salons, beauty schools and manufacturing facilities. To date in calendar year 2011, federal OSHA has issued citations to 23 salon owners and beauty schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, with fines ranging up to $17,500 for failing to protect workers from overexposure and potential exposure to formaldehyde.

Some of these violations include failing to communicate the hazards of exposure to formaldehyde, provide needed protective equipment and test air levels. The requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard can be viewed at In three separate salons, OSHA's tests showed that workers were exposed to formaldehyde levels above the agency's 15-minute short-term exposure limit, which is 2.0 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air. In one case, OSHA determined that a hair stylist was exposed to more than five times the allowable amount with an actual exposure reading of 10.12 ppm. In another instance, the exposure reading was 4.73 ppm.

OSHA also has issued citations to two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde for failing to protect their own workers from possible formaldehyde exposure as well as to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde exposure to salons, stylists and consumers. The violations of OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards include failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on the material safety data sheet, the hazard warning sheet provided to users such as salon owners and stylists; include proper hazard warnings on product labels; and list the health effects of formaldehyde exposure on the MSDS. Labels must include ingredient and health hazard warning information, and the MSDS must provide users with information on the chemicals in a product, the hazards to workers and how to use the product safely.

"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."


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