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Formaldehyde Exposure Poses Dangers to Hair Stylists and Others

At first glance, a hair styling salon does not seem like a place associated with workplace injury. After all, the equipment used isn't heavy. Scissors and barber sheers may be sharp, but they don't necessarily put workers at risk the way in the way that a construction site does, for example.

As soon as you look a bit deeper, however, the dangers to hair salon workers quickly come into sharper focus. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of several states in which federal safety regulators have issued citations to salon owners and styling schools.

The reason for the citations can be summed up in one word: formaldehyde. Many hair-smoothing products contain this hazardous organic compound.

The risks of excessive formaldehyde exposure do not include irritation of the eyes and nose, as well as allergic reactions of the skin and eyes. Most seriously, it is also a cancer hazard.

Industrial workers who make products containing formaldehyde are also at risk of exposure that can cause workplace injuries.

The need for workers' compensation for formaldehyde-related injuries can therefore arise in several different settings. The people who may be affected include:

•· Stylists at a hair salon

•· Instructors at a beauty school

•· Industrial production workers

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants salon owners and others who handle formaldehyde-based products to be aware of the hazards and take appropriate steps to monitor them.

OSHA has developed clear standards on how much formaldehyde exposure is permissible. Indeed, companies should be encouraged to find alternative products entirely, so that they do not continue to exposure workers to formaldehyde hazards.

Source: "US Department of Labor continues to cite beauty salons and manufacturers for formaldehyde exposure from hair-smoothing products," US Dep't of Labor, 12-8-11

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