FDA urged to work with OSHA to determine safe levels of formaldehyde

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Methylene glycol, Cosmetics, Osha

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been urged to work together with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish if hair smoothing treatments emit unsafe levels of formaldehyde, given the industry outcry over the last six months.

Following the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel’s preliminary findings on the safety of formaldehyde and methylene glycol in these products, John Bailey, chief scientist Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), released a statement explaining there must be an understanding of ingredients and conditions of use.

The non-profit scientific panel reached the conclusion that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe in cosmetics products when formulated to ensure use at the minimal effective concentration and reiterated that amounts used in formulations should not exceed 0.2 percent.

Unsafe in aerosolized products

However, the Panel said it could not conclude "that formaldehyde/methylene glycol is safe in cosmetic products intended to be aerosolized or in which formaldehyde/methylene glycol vapor or gas will be produced under conditions of use."

Bailey explained that PCPC joined FDA and consumer groups several months ago in requesting that CIR review the safety of formaldehyde and methylene glycol as they are used in professional hair straightening and smoothing products, and that it supports the findings.

“We urge FDA to work expeditiously with OSHA and appropriate state and local organizations to objectively determine if salon hair smoothing products emit levels of formaldehyde gas that are unsafe for consumers or salon workers under their intended conditions of use and taking into consideration salon ventilation practices,”​ he said.

Dependent on ventilation levels

Safe and proper use depends largely on the ventilation in the salon and the application procedure.

Bailey advised that consumers do not use these products at home and to check with salon professionals that the environment is properly ventilated to meet OSHA guidelines before receiving the treatment.

“Until the review is completed and regulatory authorities have had the opportunity to assess it and come to their own conclusions, we urge consumers to exercise caution in using these products”​ said Bailey.

OSHA is responsible for regulating workplace safety and has established limits as to the safe levels of inhalation exposure to formaldehyde gas.

Heating products is a cause for concern

When hair smoothing products that contain formaldehyde or methylene glycol are heated, they can release low levels of formaldehyde gas.

These ingredients are sensitizing agents, and consumers or salon workers may experience allergic reactions if they become sensitized.

The Oregon arm of OSHA recently hit the headlines having been sued by Brazilian Blowout, a manufacturer of hair smoothing products.

The lawsuit has since been dropped for an, as yet, unknown reason. A spokesperson from OSHA told CosmeticsDesign.com USA that OSHA was unaware of the reason, and we are yet to hear back from Brazilian Blowout.

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