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Thursday, September 8, 2011

OSHA Cites Manufacturers and Distributors of Formaldehyde Hair Products

Companies failed to protect workers, warn product users of hazards

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde for 16 health violations involving alleged failures to protect their employees from possible formaldehyde exposure and to communicate with the products' users, such as salons and stylists, about the hazards of formaldehyde exposure. Proposed penalties for the companies total $49,200.

"Employers are responsible for identifying the risks associated with producing and using these hair products, as well as for taking appropriate measures to ensure that they protect their own employees and other workers who may be using their products, such as stylists, from any potential hazards," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta.

OSHA's inspections were initiated based on a referral by Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Division, which tested more than 100 product samples at 50 salons using hair smoothing or straightening products. Some products causing formaldehyde exposure were traced back to the Florida manufacturers and distributors. Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose, and cause coughing and wheezing. It is a sensitizer, which means that it can cause allergic reactions of the lungs, skin and eyes, such as asthma, rashes and itching. It also has been linked to cancer.

Both M&M International Inc. in Delray Beach, a distributor of the straightening hair product "Marcia Teixeira," and Copomon Enterprises in Boca Raton, a distributor of the keratin-based hair product "Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy," have been cited for three serious violations and fined $12,600 each for failing to ensure that material safety data sheets reflected the content of formaldehyde in the products or the hazards associated with formaldehyde exposure, as well as for failing to develop a written hazard communication program for their own employees. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Pro Skin Solutions Inc. in Orlando, a manufacturer of keratin-based products used for hair straightening, has been cited for five serious violations with penalties of $15,000. Violations include failing to establish a written respiratory protection plan, provide an emergency eyewash station, develop appropriate procedures to protect employees in the event of an emergency and develop or implement a written hazard communication program. The company also failed to address formaldehyde exposure and inhalation hazards, including possible cancer-causing effects, on material safety data sheets for the formaldehyde-containing products.

Additionally, Pro Skin Solutions has been cited for two other-than-serious violations with no monetary penalties for failing to maintain air sampling records and provide written procedures for evaluating chemical hazards. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Keratronics Inc. in Coral Springs, a manufacturer of keratin-based products used for hair straightening, has been cited for three serious violations with penalties of $9,000 for failing to provide an eyewash station for employees using corrosive products, evaluate the hazards of keratin-based products for development of the material safety data sheets, and develop or maintain a written hazard communication program on handling chemicals such as timonacic acid, formalin, acetic acid and hydrolyzed keratin.

All manufacturers, importers and distributers are required by OSHA standards to identify formaldehyde on any product that contains more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde, either as a gas or in a solution that can release formaldehyde at concentrations greater than 0.1 part per million. The material safety data sheet that comes with the product also must include this information, as well as explain why the chemical is hazardous, what harm it can cause, what protective measures should be taken and what to do in an emergency. The sheets are used by employers to determine products' potential health hazards and methods to prevent worker exposure.

Federal OSHA issued a hazard alert earlier this year to hair salon owners and employees about potential formaldehyde exposure resulting from working with some hair smoothing and straightening products. It can be viewed at

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning letter to GIB LLC in North Hollywood, Calif., doing business as Brazilian Blowout, concerning misbranding relating to formaldehyde. That letter is available at

Keratronics, M&M International and Copomon Enterprises were inspected by OSHA's Fort Lauderdale Area Office, 1000 S. Pine Island Road, Suite 100, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33324; telephone 954-424-0242. Pro Skin Solutions was inspected by OSHA's Tampa Area Office, located at 5807 Breckenridge Parkway, Suite A, Tampa, Fla. 33610; telephone 813-626-1177. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit