Formaldehyde Exposure Risks and Protecting Workers in Hair Salons
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to address health and safety hazards in the workplace to protect employees and communities.
Lansing, MI, March 21st, 2019 -- As recently as 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were over 673,000 jobs in the United States alone for hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists. The vast majority of these jobs take place in salons and barbershops and BLS estimates the number of people in this profession will grow 13% by 2026.
Most workers in this industry likely have no idea that working in a hair salon could in some circumstances expose them to formaldehyde. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens.
To address this exposure risk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an updated Hazard Alert back in 2011 about hair smoothing and straightening products that could release formaldehyde into the air. This was the result of OSHA and several State OSHA programs investigating questions and complaints from hair salon owners and workers about possible formaldehyde exposure from some products. Air sampling conducted by OSHA showed workers were exposed to formaldehyde in some salons at levels higher than the agency's permissible limits.
“To help protect hundreds of thousands of workers that could be exposed to formaldehyde in hair salons, OSHA has a dedicated section of their website that shares the agency’s requirements for protecting these workers from this exposure risk,” said Dirk Yamamoto, PhD, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Salon owners and other employers should avoid using formaldehyde-based hair products whenever possible and must comply with OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards if they use products that contain or may release formaldehyde. Requirements include employee education, a written hazard communication program, air testing, and employee access and training for the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.”
Helping employers meet these requirements are Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs). These professionals are qualified to identify and mitigate exposure to all types of chemical hazards. CIHs are trained in risks assessment; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge, in addition to administrative controls and the proper use of personal protective equipment, can be instrumental in reducing exposure risks and addressing required OSHA standards.
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, the Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential, or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org or email abih@ABIH.org. For information about the Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP®) credential or Environmental Professional In-Training (EPI) designation, visit www.IPEP.org or email ipep@IPEP.org. Please call (517) 321-2638 for questions about ABIH® or its credentials and designations.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world's largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance, and ethics enforcement. ABIH® also administers the Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP®) credential for established environmental practitioners and the Environmental Professional In-Training (EPI) designation for early-career practitioners. Currently, more than 7,600 people around the world hold the CIH® credential, QEP® credential, or EPI designation.