OSHA and many other federal, state, and non-U.S. government agencies have taken action to address the emerging problem of formaldehyde exposure from hair smoothing products. Some have issued warnings about the products' hazards, and other agencies have identified and acted on violations of labeling rules by manufacturers of hair smoothing products.
Several major U.S. federal and state government actions are listed below. For a more detailed timeline of events, visit OSHA's Health Alert: Hair Smoothing Products That Could Release Formaldehyde Timeline.
Federal OSHA has responded and continues to respond to complaints and referrals concerning exposures to formaldehyde in hair products. Citations were issued at 49 different work places during the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years (October 2010 - September 2012) under Federal OSHA's jurisdiction. OSHA issued citations to manufacturers/distributors, salon owners, and beauty schools:
Manufacturers were issued citations for failing to protect their own workers from possible formaldehyde exposure and failing to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde exposure to salons, stylists, and consumers. The violations, of both OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards, included failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on the Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS --the hazard warning sheet provided to downstream users (e.g., salon owners, stylists), failing to include proper hazard warnings on product labels, and failing to list the health effects of formaldehyde exposure on the MSDS. Labels must include ingredient and hazard warning information and the MSDS must provide users with information about the chemicals in a product, the hazards to workers, and how to use a product safely. OSHA's investigations found that these workplaces were manufacturing and distributing hair products that contained formaldehyde without following the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard or hazard communication standard.
Salon owners were issued citations for failing to protect workers from over exposures to formaldehyde and failing to communicate the hazards of exposure to formaldehyde. In at least three cases, OSHA's tests showed that in each of these salons formaldehyde levels were above the OSHA 15-minute short term exposure level and owners were not following the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard.
Salon owners and beauty schools were issued citations for failing to protect workers from possible exposure to formaldehyde by failing to test air levels, provide needed protective equipment, communicate the hazards of formaldehyde to workers, and meet other requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard. OSHA's investigations found that some salon owners were using hair smoothing products that contained formaldehyde without following the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard. Owners and beauty schools were also issued citations for failing to provide workers with information about the hazardous chemicals they worked with, a violation of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard and/or Formaldehyde Standard, by failing to have a written hazard communication program, maintain and provide access to MSDSs, provide information and training on the hazards of the chemicals in their workplace, and meet other requirements of OSHA's hazard communication standard. OSHA's investigations found that some owners and beauty schools were using products the contained hazardous substances without following the requirements of OSHA's hazard communication standard.
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