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OSHA Alert: Could "Formaldehyde-free" Salon Products Release Formaldehyde?

Posted April 26, 2011 

OSHA recently issued a hazard alert to hair salon owners and operators regarding potential hazardous chemical exposure from working with some hair smoothing and straightening products. OSHA found that formaldehyde is released into the air when using these products, some of which apparently did not have formaldehyde listed on their labels or in material safety data sheets.

OSHA is conducting a number of investigations at hair salons and importers, distributors and manufacturers of these hair care products. One investigation found that formaldehyde was present in a salon at levels greater than the allowable limit even though products labeled "formaldehyde free" were being used. OSHA has issued citations and violations; California OSHA has also issued violations to an importer/distributor for failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on product labels material or safety data sheets.

OSHA specifically stated that if a salon uses hair care products containing formaldehyde, they must follow the formaldehyde standard, including air monitoring, installing ventilation where needed, training workers on formaldehyde and providing personal protective equipment (gloves, chemical splash goggles, face shields and chemical-resistant aprons).

Given OSHA's findings regarding hair care products, the agency may expand its investigation to include "formaldehyde-free" products used by other businesses. This will directly affect funeral service because of "formaldehyde-free" chemical products used in the prep room.

Funeral professionals should confirm that all "formaldehyde-free" products used in the preparation process are actually free of the chemical. If a product is labeled "formaldehyde free" and contains the chemical, funeral professionals should ensure that they are using all mandated safety precautions.

The hazard alert is available on OSHA's website.