ChemRisk Study Confirms Formaldehyde Exposure from Keratin-Based Hair Styling Products

ChemRisk Study Confirms Formaldehyde Exposure from Keratin-Based Hair Styling Products

ChemRisk, a scientific consulting firm committed to helping clients develop sustainable solutions to a growing number of health and safety concerns, recently announced the results of a study that has confirmed formaldehyde exposure from hair-smoothing products.

Recently OSHA (U.S. Department of Labors Occupational Safety and Health Administration) issued warning to hair salon owners and workers against the hazards of using hair styling products that contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde.

ChemRisk study has confirmed OSHA’s findings that airborne formaldehyde levels associated with some keratin-based hair-smoothing treatments may exceed certain occupational exposure limits set by the U.S. government.

While average formaldehyde levels in a salon over a full work shift did not exceed the applicable eight-hour occupational exposure limit established by OSHA, some hair-smoothing treatment products the company tested – including those labeled as formaldehyde-free – may produce peak formaldehyde in concentrations that exceed OSHA's short-term occupational exposure limits – especially during blow-drying, according to Dr. Jennifer Pierce, senior industrial hygienist for ChemRisk.

Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard, according to OSHA. ChemRisk study, however, could not thoroughly evaluate the health risks that could result from short-term exposure to potentially elevated levels of formaldehyde from these products.

The study analyzed the potential formaldehyde exposures resulting from the use of these popular hair treatments across three groups: the salon worker, the customer and bystanders. It also obtained measurements during consecutive treatments with different products to identify the presence of other chemicals in the bulk product that can thermally degrade into formaldehyde.

In August 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the Brazilian Blowout product to be misbranded (false labeling) and adulterated (containing harmful ingredients). The ChemRisk study confirmed these FDA findings. Two samples each of Brazilian Blowout, along with three other brands – Coppola, Global Keratin and La Brasiliana – were each tested by ChemRisk and all of them but La Brasiliana were found to contain formaldehyde.

The law mandates that companies that market such products properly reveal the contents and composition along with warnings of potential health hazards. However, of those tested by ChemRisk, only one mentioned the presence of formaldehyde on its label, but the amount on the label was far below what it actually contained.

ChemRisk also suggests further research should be conducted to identify potential health problems associated with such hair treatment methods, particularly those involving short-term exposure.

"Given that there are literally hundreds of different keratin-based hair-smoothing products, the public would benefit from a broader survey measuring their formaldehyde contents and potential exposures in hair salons,” Pierce said. In another related health hazards news associated with hair care products, Attorney Darren Tobin confirms that hair loss prevention drugs like Propecia may result in high-grade prostate cancer.

The FDA has notified healthcare professionals that the Warnings and Precautions section of Propecia include new safety information about the increased risk of being diagnosed with a more serious form of prostate cancer (high-grade prostate cancer).

By Rajani Baburajan

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