The issue has dragged on over the past two years as government agencies and product manufacturers trade claims over the release of formaldehyde in hair smoothing treatments.
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.
Being kept busy
"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.'"
This year alone, 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.
It has also issued citations to two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde as it claims they have failed 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 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."