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Hair Salons may expose Workers and Customers to Dangerous Levels of Formaldehyde


Last year the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) cautioned salons using hair-smoothing products about health risks from formaldehyde exposure. Two public health alerts have also been issued by the Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) about possible negative health impacts from hair straightening products.

According to a recent CROET release, “The product being tested is called Brazilian Blowout. Upon receiving two samples from Portland area salons, CROET asked the Department of Consumer and Business Services’ Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division to chemically analyze the products. The results of Oregon OSHA’s testing showed that the two different formulations of the product contained between 4.85% and 10.6% formaldehyde. In addition, the second sample, which came from a bottle labeled “formaldehyde free”, was tested using four different methods.” The tests revealed the product contained between 6.3% and 10.6% formaldehyde. Oregon OSHA is advising salons using these hair-smoothing treatments to take necessary precautions outlined in Oregon OSHA’s formaldehyde rule.

Formaldehyde is widely used in many consumer products and common building materials. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified formaldehyde as a potential human carcinogen.

Clark Seif Clark, a leading provider of indoor air quality (IAQ) and environmental testing services, has extensive experience testing indoor environments for formaldehyde and other gases. “Brazilian Blowout is just one example of numerous available products containing known hazards that are incorrectly labeled. Without the correct information, consumers and professionals are unable to formulate fact-based risk management decisions,” reported Derrick A. Denis, V.P. Indoor Environmental Quality at CSC. “Formaldehyde causes short-term irritation to mucosal membranes including the eyes, nose and throat. Skin exposure and inhalation exposure over extended durations and/or at high concentrations can result in increased risk of cancer. Both workers and customers need to be protected from unnecessary exposure. Workplace safety programs should consider options such as product evaluation, education (i.e. hazard communication), engineering controls (i.e. ventilation), personal protective equipment (i.e. gloves) and periodic exposure monitoring.”

To learn more about formaldehyde or how CSC can help assess and manage worker exposure to formaldehyde and other environmental issues, please visit, email or call (800) 807-1118.

About Clark Seif Clark (CSC)
CSC was established in 1989 to help clients in both the public and private sectors address industrial hygiene and environmental issues. CSC is a leading provider of these services with multiple offices along the western seaboard and southwest. The company believes in science-based protocols and has a strong background in engineering, making them the preferred environmental consultants to healthcare facilities, architects, schools, builders, contractors, developers and real estate professionals.


 Occupational Health
 Indoor Air Quality

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