Formaldehyde in Hair Salons

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Posted on Jul 17, 2014

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This is a good reminder about the effects of chemicals and other substances at work.

The Brazilian blow-out and Keratin Smoothing Treatments have become very popular over the years. They're the perfect way to straighten your hair and have it last for long periods of time and to avoid getting your hair ruined by the summer humidity. It sounds great, but it comes at a price.

Clients and hairdressers are exposed to high levels of formaldehyde when performing these treatment processes. OSHA measured unsafe levels of formaldehyde in the air at three salons that specifically use products that contained formaldehyde and issued some citations. The citations were issued because the employers had failed to protect their workers from the exposure levels. 

On OSHA's webpage you find information and data that OSHA has on formaldehyde in hair smoothing products, but other products used in the salon may contain and/or release formaldehyde. The information contained on their webpage applies to all products used in the salon.

The health risks of over exposure to formaldehyde include:

  • Eye irritation and damage, including blindness.
  • Nose irritation, including bloody nose.
  • Skin sensitivity, rashes, and itching.
  • Breathing difficulties, such as coughing and wheezing.

If you are working with hair products that contain formaldehyde you can be exposed to the chemical by:

  •  Breathing it in through your nose or mouth.
  • Getting in on your skin.
  • Getting it in your eyes or mouth.

When it is possible, salon owners should avoid using products that contain formaldehyde, methylene glycol and other ingredients that are treated as formaldehyde under the OSHA regulations. With more hair companies putting our products that they claim do not have formaldehyde in them, choosing one of those products can help reduce the risk of exposure.

On the other hand, if a salon owner chooses to use products that contain formaldehyde they must follow the requirements that are listed in OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards to ensure the protection of their employees. Some of the requirements include steps such as testing the salon air quality during treatments to protect worker safety. More importantly salon owners and workers should be aware of the contents of the products they use as well as the hazards they may pose.

It is important that employers are ensuring that the levels of formaldehyde does not reach dangerous levels. If you have been exposed to high levels of formaldehyde, contact us and we will see how we can help. Even if we cannot take your case, we can refer you to someone we trust.

For more information on OSHA and formaldehyde exposures in hair salons, head over to

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer