From OSHA QuickTakes –
Oregon OSHA issued an alert to Oregon hair salons in October about the presence of formaldehyde in products used to smooth or straighten hair. Oregon OSHA tested more than 100 product samples from more than 50 Oregon salons. The sampling results* confirmed significant levels of formaldehyde in products labeled "formaldehyde free." For example, of the product samples tested by Oregon OSHA, 37 came from bottles of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, labeled "formaldehyde free." The formaldehyde content in that product averaged 8.68 percent.
Oregon OSHA also monitored the air in several salons to assess worker exposure levels to formaldehyde. "Although it's not clear whether the regulatory level of airborne exposure would be exceeded based on our results, it is clear that the levels are high enough to cause concern," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. "And it is certainly clear that the amount of formaldehyde in many of these products is high enough to trigger the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde rules."
Formaldehyde is a sensitizing agent that can cause an immune system response upon initial exposure. It is also a suspected human carcinogen that is linked to nasal cancer and lung cancer. Acute exposure is highly irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat and can make you cough and wheeze. Subsequent exposure may cause severe allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
According to OSHA standards, employers using products containing formaldehyde must provide information and training to workers and they must conduct air monitoring to ensure that workers are not exposed to levels above the permissible limit.