What can I do to reduce exposure to formaldehyde when using formaldehyde releasing hair smoothing/straightening products?
Employers, stylists, and other salon workers should read the product information and MSDSs for the products they buy and use so that they know what chemicals are in them and how to use them safely in the workplace. The best way to control exposure to formaldehyde is to use products that do not list formaldehyde, formalin, methylene glycol, or any of the other names for formaldehyde listed above on the label or in the MSDS. Beauty care companies are now making and selling products that they claim do not contain formaldehyde in the solution. Choosing one of these products might eliminate the risk of formaldehyde exposure. Note that just because a product doesn’t list formaldehyde, formalin, or methylene glycol does not mean that it does not contain any other hazardous ingredients.
If salon owners decide to use products that contain or release formaldehyde, then they must follow the requirements in OSHA’s Formaldehyde standard. The standard requires that employers test the air to find out the level of formaldehyde present in the air when the product is being used. If the test shows that formaldehyde is present at levels above OSHA’s limits (0.75 parts of formaldehyde per million parts (or ppm) of air during an 8-hour work shift or 2 ppm during any 15-minute period), then the employer must:
- Install air ventilation systems in the areas where these products are mixed and used to help keep formaldehyde levels below OSHA’s limit and perform regular maintenance to make sure the systems work correctly;
- When possible, require workers to use lower heat settings on blow-dryers and flat irons used during the process;
- Give workers respirators, if needed; train them to use the respirator properly; and meet the other requirements in OSHA’s Respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134;
- Ensure workers understand the information on a product’s label and MSDS;
- Post signs at entryways to any area where formaldehyde is above OSHA’s limit to tell workers of the danger and stating that only authorized personnel may enter;
- Tell workers about the health effects of formaldehyde, how to use the product safely, and what personal protective equipment to wear while using the product; and
- Train workers how to safely clean up spills and properly throw products out.
In addition, where the tests show that formaldehyde is present in the air at a level of 0.5 ppm during an 8-hour work shift or 2 ppm during any 15-minute period, then the employer must:
- Get workers the right medical attention (e.g., doctor exams), and
- Test the air periodically to make sure that formaldehyde levels are below OSHA’s limits.
Whether or not air tests show formaldehyde levels above OSHA’s limits, employers must follow certain parts of the standard if a product contains formaldehyde:
- Give employees appropriate gloves and other personal protective equipment (e.g., face shield, chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant aprons) and train them on how to use this equipment while mixing and applying the products;
- Explain to workers how to read and understand the information on a product’s label and MSDS;
- Make sure the workplace has eye and skin washing equipment if products that contain formaldehyde could be splashed onto the workers’ skin or into their eyes;
- Train workers how to safely clean up spills and properly throw products out; and
- Get workers the right medical attention (e.g., doctor exams) if they develop signs and symptoms of an exposure to formaldehyde or are exposed to large amounts of formaldehyde during an emergency (e.g., a large spill).
Employers must also keep records of the air tests they perform, any medical attention needed by their employees, and respirator fit-testing. Do you actually think a salon owner is going to do this??????