Mike Parker

When you hear the word, “formaldehyde,” chances are you think of embalming fluid. But this chemical concoction has been, and continues to be, used in a plethora of products such as glue, plywood, insulation and carpet. Formaldehyde is frequently used in industrial settings as a fungicide, germicide and disinfectant. It can also be found in your local hair salon, beauty shop, and spa, as it is a common ingredient in hair straightening and hair smoothing products.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring gas that is produced by most living organisms and is present in most environments, both indoor and outdoor, at very low levels, typically less than 0.03 parts per million (ppm). At these levels it is not particularly noticeable. But at levels above .01 ppm formaldehyde can result in watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, nausea, skin irritation, and burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat in people who are sensitive to it. Studies which began in the early 1980s have linked excess formaldehyde exposure to cancer, and in 2011 the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

If you work in cosmetology salon and develop symptoms of formaldehyde exposure or other health problems after using a salon product, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends first reporting the situation to your employer. You can also:

  • Ask OSHA a question or file a complaint by calling (1-800-321-OSHA).
  • Call FDA and report the reaction or health problem.
  • Suggest to your employer that they call OSHA to receive free consultative services.
  • File a request or suggest that your employer file a request to NIOSH to have them come out and investigate.
     

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