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SAFETY / OSHA - 10/12/11

OSHA issues updated hazard alert on formaldehyde dangers to hair salon owners, workers after new agency findings and FDA warning letter

OSHA has issued a revised hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products. The revised alert was prompted by the results of agency investigations, a warning letter issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and factually incorrect information recently sent to salons by a company that manufactures hair products.

During recent investigations, OSHA's air tests showed formaldehyde at hazardous levels in salons using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu, resulting in citations for multiple violations. OSHA found that workers were exposed to formaldehyde in these salons at levels higher than the agency's protective limits. OSHA also cited two manufacturers and two distributors of hair smoothing products for violations that included failing to list formaldehyde on product labels, as well as on accompanying hazard warning sheets, known as material safety data sheets (MSDS), that are provided to the products' users.

The FDA had issued a warning letter, on Aug. 22, to the importer and distributer of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution stating that the product is adulterated and misbranded. Although the solution contains methylene glycol, which can release formaldehyde during the normal conditions of use, the product is labeled "formaldehyde free" or "no formaldehyde" and does not list formaldehyde on the MSDS. Following an Aug. 24 letter sent by Brazilian Blowout to salon owners claiming that all OSHA air tests performed on the company's Brazilian Blowout Professional Acai Smoothing Solution yielded results below OSHA's standard for exposure, OSHA sent a Sept. 22 letter to the company refuting that assertion.

Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard. The revised hazard alert notifies salons that if they use products that contain or release formaldehyde, they must follow the requirements in OSHA's formaldehyde standard at 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1048. OSHA further requires manufacturers, importers and distributors of products that contain formaldehyde as a gas or in solution, or that can release formaldehyde during use, to include information about formaldehyde and its hazards on product labels and in the MSDSs. The alert also now includes details about the information that is required to be listed on the labels and the MSDSs of products that contain or could release formaldehyde.

"Misleading or inadequate information on hazardous product labels is unacceptable," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Salon owners and workers have the right to know the risks associated with the chemicals with which they work and how to protect themselves."

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