OSHA warns hair salons on worker exposure to formaldehyde

LOS ANGELES – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is warning the nation’s hair salons – again – about the exposure of their low-paid female workers to formaldehyde present in hair smoothing and straightening products.

The issue is particularly important to Asian-American workers toiling at family owned salons in Los Angeles, the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance says. OSHA’s warning followed its probe of the products, and after one manufacturer falsely said its products had “acceptable” formaldehyde levels, less than 0.1 parts per million.

OSHA says formaldehyde is a cancer hazard. It also can irritate the eyes and nose, and cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs. OSHA’s new hazard alert orders salons that use products with formaldehyde to not only keep the levels below OSHA’s minimums but to put warnings about formaldehyde on product labels.

“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,” the agency told the manufacturer of the two products on Sept. 21.

OSHA said 15-minute exposure of workers to formaldehyde in L.A. were as high as two parts per million, 20 times the OSHA standard for warning workers and salons. But Brazilian Blowout lied about the exposures and did not list formaldehyde on product warning labels.

“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.”

Photo: Susan NYC // CC 2.0


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.