IR #2011-07
April 13, 2011

Krisann Chasarik
Dean Fryer


OSHA issues hazard alert and Cal/OSHA completes investigation
of formaldehyde content in hair smoothing products

Oakland, CA— Federal OSHA yesterday released a hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers nationwide about potential formaldehyde exposure when using hair smoothing products. OSHA regulates formaldehyde as a cancer causing substance, and formaldehyde is listed as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer (Prop 65 List). Formaldehyde also irritates the skin, eyes, throat and respiratory system, and can cause asthma and skin and respiratory sensitization.

This hazard alert was the result of investigative work done by Cal/OSHA, Oregon OSHA, and federal OSHA into hair-styling products, some of which are labeled as formaldehyde- free. Some of these products are imported from Brazil and distributed in the U.S. by companies including GIB LLC, which does business under the name “Brazilian Blowout.” Cal/OSHA is also cooperating with other state agencies to ensure that consumers and the public are protected from these health hazards.

Cal/OSHA’s testing of Brazilian Blowout’s Acai Professional Smoothing and Brazilian Blowout Professional Solutions found that formaldehyde is present in these products, and testing performed by federal OSHA found that use of these products caused workers to be overexposed to formaldehyde in the air they were breathing.

Cal/OSHA further found that GIB did not list formaldehyde as an ingredient on the products’ labels, and in fact Acai Professional Smoothing Solution was labeled as “Formaldehyde Free.” They also did not list formaldehyde on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that are required to accompany the products when sold. These are violations of California’s Hazardous Substances Information and Training Act and occupational safety and health standards and have resulted in the issuance of citations to Brazilian Blowout.

“The work done jointly by federal OSHA and Cal/OSHA has found a critical flaw in the information accompanying these products, resulting in completely avoidable overexposures to a carcinogen, sensitizer, and irritant that simply should not be present in hair products” said Ellen Widess, Chief of Cal/OSHA. “Workers have a right and need to know about harmful substances they work with in order to protect themselves.”

There are several ongoing investigations into the products nationwide, including one by Cal/OSHA involving a hair salon in Long Beach. In May 2010, Cal/OSHA began receiving complaints about two Brazilian Blowout products from hair stylists in Southern California who reported dizziness, watery eyes, and headaches while using these hair products.

“Because of the serious risks to both workers and consumers from exposure to these products, Cal/OSHA is also working with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Public Health, to ensure that workers and the public are informed and protected,” said Widess.

Formaldehyde is also used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard, in glues and adhesives, permanent-press fabrics, paper product coatings, in some insulation materials, and in many industrial processes. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories. Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in the environment in small concentrations.

Workers using products that contain formaldehyde can inhale it as a gas or vapor, and in liquid form, formaldehyde can damage the skin and the eyes.

Federal OSHA has issued a hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposures from working with some hair smoothing and straightening products. If salon owners in California continue to use a hair product containing formaldehyde, they are required to follow Cal/OSHA’s formaldehyde standard which includes periodic monitoring of exposure, implementation of a respiratory protection program and employee training.

The Division of Occupation Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, protects workers and the public from safety hazards, and provides consultative assistance to employers. For more information about Cal/OSHA visit their web site Employees with work-related questions or complaints may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757. California’s Safe Cosmetics Program has also prepared a questions and answers document about hair smoothing treatments, available at:

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