OSHA has issued a revised hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products. The revised alert was prompted by the results of agency investigations, a warning letter issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and factually incorrect information recently sent to salons by a company that manufactures hair products.

During recent investigations, OSHA's air tests showed formaldehyde at hazardous levels in salons using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, resulting in citations for multiple violations. OSHA also cited two manufacturers and two distributors of hair smoothing products for violations that included failing to list formaldehyde on product labels as well as on accompanying hazard warning sheets, known as material safety data sheets, that are provided to the products' users.

The FDA issued a warning letter in August to the importer and distributor of the Brazilian Blowout solution stating that the product is adulterated and misbranded. Although the solution contains methylene glycol, which can release formaldehyde during the normal conditions of use, the product is labeled "formaldehyde free" or "no formaldehyde" and does not list formaldehyde on the material safety data sheet.

Later in the month, Brazilian Blowout sent a letter to salon owners claiming that all OSHA air tests performed on the company's smoothing solution yielded results below OSHA's standard for exposure. The agency has now followed with a letter to the company refuting that assertion.

Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard. The revised hazard alert notifies salons that if they use products that contain or release formaldehyde, they must follow the requirements in OSHA's formaldehyde standard at 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1048.

The alert also includes details for manufacturers, importers and distributors about the information that must be listed on the labels and the material safety data sheets of products that contain or could release formaldehyde.