It can be difficult to tell which hair products contain or can release formaldehyde. Even products that do not list formaldehyde or methylene glycol on the label, or that claim to be "formaldehyde free" or "no formaldehyde," can still expose workers to formaldehyde.
It is important to know whether salon products, such as straighteners, conditioners, and shampoos, can expose workers to formaldehyde as well as what you should do if your salon or beauty school uses these products. Products of concern might contain ingredients that are synonyms for formaldehyde or methylene glycol, such as formalin, methanal, methanediol, or formaldehyde monohydrate. Hair salon products might also contain chemicals that release formaldehyde when the product is heated, such as during flat-ironing or blow-drying. Examples of chemicals that release formaldehyde include timonacic acid, dimethoxymethane, or decamethyl-cyclopentasiloxane. More examples can be found at the bottom of this page. This list does not contain all chemicals that will release formaldehyde. Employers must be aware of all chemicals hazards in their work place and must inform workers of those hazards.
OSHA's Hazard Communication and formaldehyde standard require formaldehyde and other substances that can lead to formaldehyde exposure to be listed in two places for products: on the label on the product bottle or box and in the product's material safety data sheets (MSDSs)/safety data sheets (SDSs), which are documents that explain the health hazards of products that contain hazardous chemicals and the recommended safe practices for working with them. Knowing how to read and understand labels and MSDSs/SDSs is important to protecting worker health.
If a product contains 0.1% or more formaldehyde or releases at least 0.1ppm to 0.5ppm of it into the air, then the label must include:
If the product can release more than 0.5ppm of formaldehyde into the air, then the label must also include:
OSHA recently updated the hazard communications standard. MSDSs will now be called SDSs and both may be used until June 1, 2015. After June 1, 2015 only SDSs will be accepted. SDSs will generally list the same information as MSDSs, but all information will now be presented in a common format detailed in 29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix D [Mandatory]. The MSDS/SDS for all hair products as well as any other hazardous products used in the salon must be available to all workers. MSDSs/SDSs must have the following information:
Please note that OSHA mandates that the headers for Sections 12-15 be present but is not enforcing the contents of these sections.
OSHA has found that many hair smoothing products contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde dissolved in water (called methylene glycol), or other chemicals that can release formaldehyde during use. Using products that contain these substances can result in worker exposure to unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
In 2011, OSHA reported that it found that measured levels of formaldehyde exceeded the short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2 parts per million (ppm) in three salons. In one salon, formaldehyde levels during the blow drying phase of treatment were measured at 10 ppm - five times the OSHA STEL. Federal OSHA issued additional citations to 37 salons (including beauty schools) and 9 distributers/manufacturers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio during the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.
OSHA has identified several brand-name products that contain formaldehyde or that can expose you to formaldehyde during use, even though they do not list formaldehyde on their labels or MSDSs:
Bottles of Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution must have "CAUTION" stickers on the bottles to warn users of potential exposure to formaldehyde gas and the need for precautionary measures. Formaldehyde or methylene glycol must also be prominently identified in an ingredient list on the bottle. These actions are part of a settlement reached between the distributer, GIB LLC, and the State of California that was announced on January 30, 2012.
Oregon OSHA's report on Hair Smoothing Products (PDF) and ChemRisk, LLC's journal article include the names of additional products that have been shown to contain formaldehyde.
Just because the name "formaldehyde" or the name methylene glycol is not on a product label or MSDS does not mean the product cannot expose workers to formaldehyde. Sometimes, manufacturers or distributors intentionally omit ingredients from labels or MSDS. There are also other names for formaldehyde, and other chemicals that can expose you to formaldehyde when the product is used. These are listed in the table below, and are subject to the same OSHA rules as formaldehyde.
|Timonacic acid||thiazolidinecarboxylic acid, 1,3-thiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid||60731-25-1|
|Formaldehyde, polymer with dimethyl-2,4-imidazolidinedione||
1Adapted From: Fyvholm, MA, Andersen, P (1993): Identification of Formaldehyde Releasers and Occurrence of Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasers in Registered Chemical Products. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 24(5):533-52.
Note: This list may not include all formaldehyde releasing chemicals
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