Oregon OSHA Shares Report On Keratin-Based Hair Smoothing Products Containing Formaldehyde

Michael Woods, Administrator for Oregon OSHA, emailed me directly regarding their testing of the keratin smoothing treatment Brazilian Blowout. Michael states, “We issued our report today[October 29, 2010] which includes (among other things) our bulk sampling results for several products, our air monitoring results for Brazilian Blowout, and our discussion of the methylene glycol issue, (which was reviewed by a number of chemistry and toxicology PhDs). You can find it at http://www.orosha.org/pdf/Final_Hair_Smoothing_Report.pdf.”

The report is quite technical and lengthy.  If you like to skip to the end, here is the final conclusion:

Oregon OSHA and CROET have concluded that there are meaningful risks to salon workers
when they are confronted with these hair smoothing products. Effective control of those risks
depends upon accurate information regarding the potential hazards and the control measures
available, which in turn begins with an accurate understanding of the ingredients and the
potential harm they may cause.  In conjunction with this report, Oregon OSHA is advising Oregon salons and stylists that hairsmoothing treatments – particularly those generally referred to as “Keratin-based treatments” should generally be treated as formaldehyde-containing products and the requirements of the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard must be followed when there are employees under the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA). Further, employers should be advised that any product that contains “methylene glycol” will continue to be treated as a formaldehyde-containing product under the OSEA.

Michael also included additional links to share with you:

I think this guide is fantastic information.  It explains what formaldehyde is, how stylists are exposed, how salons can protect their employees and help understanding exposure levels as well as health risks.  I hope you pass it on to every stylist you know!  Here is a sample of the material that can be found on the fact sheet.  Please see the fact sheet for full information:

“In response to health concerns raised by local hair salons, Oregon OSHA conducted extensive testing
of hair-straightening and smoothing products in the fall of 2010. The agency found significant levels of
formaldehyde in many popular products, despite being labeled “formaldehyde free.” If salons choose to
continue using these products, they must provide training and information to their workers and ensure
their workers are not overexposed. This hazard alert provides general information about formaldehyde
exposure and steps salons should take to protect their employees.”

What should salons do to protect their workers?

Know how much your workers are exposed when using products that contain formaldehyde!  Employers must conduct air monitoring to identify all workers who may be exposed to formaldehyde at or above certain exposure levels (explained later). Here are some options:

  • Purchase air monitoring equipment, such as a passive sampler.
  • Call Oregon OSHA at 800-922-2689 and request a consultation.
  • Contract with an industrial hygienist.

Oregon OSHA conducted air monitoring at several local salons to determine the exposure levels for workers using hair-straightening products. Air monitoring is clearly required when workers who use products that contain formaldehyde experience symptoms of exposure.

Despite these publications by Oregon OSHA, Brazilian Blowout remains optimistic, stating the following on their website:

Oregon OSHA Confirms:

“Exposure to Cosmetologists and Clients is well below OSHA’s Air Level Requirements.

OSHA’s Action Level of 0.5 parts per million is the most stringent level of exposure set by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On October 29, 2010, Oregon OSHA released results of a comprehensive air monitoring study conducted across seven salons. Each case yielded formaldehyde exposure levels well beneath OSHA’s Action Level, Permissible Exposure Level (PEL), and Short-Term Exposure Level.

The average Formaldehyde gas exposure level for the seven salons tested by Oregon OSHA was 0.079 parts per million; well beneath the OSHA Action Level of 0.5 parts per million.

Sample Case Study #7 (cited directly from Oregon OSHA’s recent report entitled “Keratin Based” Hair Smoothing Products And the Presence of Formaldehyde):

Case 7: The seventh salon had four stations with a false ceiling. No doors or window were left open and the stylist did not use any fans during the treatment. She did not wear gloves.

Breathing zone samples were placed on the stylist during the process, which took 94 minutes. The samples were changed every 15 minutes. Samples were also placed to the right of the stylist, near the stylist’s sink and to the left of the stylist. The stylist’s peak exposure was 0.471 ppm, while applying the solution. Her average exposure during the procedure was 0.255 ppm and the 8 hour average was 0.050 ppm.

The results did not exceed the 8-hour limit and it is unlikely that multiple treatments would have done so.

In referencing Brazilian Blowouts recently released air sample test results, Oregon OSHA confirms the following:

“The company released air monitoring results on October 15, 2010, taken from two stylists performing two treatments each in a single salon. The only results reported were for the eight-hour average exposure, which came to 0.064 ppm for one stylist and 0.073 ppm for the other. The middle of the salon also was tested, providing an eight-hour average of 0.016.58

In general, these results – although less detailed – are not inconsistent with Oregon OSHA’s air monitoring results, which included both results that were higher and results that were lower than those reported by the company.”

CONCLUSION: Air sample tests conducted by Oregon OSHA and HSA (those published by Brazilian Blowout) yield remarkably consistent results; both demonstrating that formaldehyde exposure levels are safely below OSHA’s Action Level.”

If you are a salon owner, employee or stylist we want to hear from you!  Will your salon continue to offer the Brazilian Blowout?  If so, will you impliment additional safety precautions for yourself and your clients?

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  1. The fact that the air samples came back as withing the Osha guidelines tells me the product is in fact ok to use as long as it’s used properly. I believe all the other info was just their way of not
    backing off completely from their original statement which was as it now appears an over-reaction.

    Again, the product must be used properly with proper ventilation, but beyond that I see no reason to not use the product. The statement from Brazilian Blowout clearly highlights the important fact that the air sample tests were fine. Oregon Osha said just the opposite in their first statement. This new statement was about as close to a retraction as you can get.

    This product is not going away anytime soon. Also, we have heard nothing from any other state, including California Osha were the product is supposedly shipped from.

  2. Oregon OSHA’s previous statement said something to the effect of “this product contains significant levels of formaldehyde and stylists are being told it is formaldehyde-free.” And this report says “it contains formaldehyde.” Wow, Amanda. You’re right! They really backed off.

    Brazilian Blowout said “it doesn’t contain any formaldehyde but will release trace levels of formaldehyde.” Oregon OSHA’s report says “it contains formaldehyde and releases formaldehyde at levels greater than those recommended by NIOSH or the ACGIH, although the levels found did not exceed the regulatory limits.” Once again, you nailed it. Oregon OSHA really backed off.

    Seriously, Oregon OSHA didn’t back off on its prior testing. It didn’t back off on its position (and that of the broader scientific community) that formaldehyde can exist in solution. It didn’t back off on its concern about the product. And it didn’t back off on its concern about stylists being misled by statements about no hazardous chemicals, no formaldehyde, etc.

    Other than than, I suppose you’re right. They’re in full retreat.

    It may be possible to use the product without great risk (I don’t think Oregon OSHA said anything different at the start). It certainly appears possible to use it at levels that won’t automatically be in violation of the OSHA rules (although there’s more to that than just staying below the limits). But it really isn’t possible to continue to accept Brazilian Blowout’s claim that it is formaldehyde free.

  3. Amanda, you also said Oregon OSHA retracted their statement about air results in their first statement. When did they report air results before this report? I think you’re confused.

  4. I am happy to finally hear from OR OSHA after their initial report and then a period of silence. While I did go a bit cross-eyed trying to read the 32-page report, I was most happy to read that their air testing results came through within the guidelines.

    As Amanda said above, proper use is very important, so do some research before choosing a stylist to perform your Brazilian Blowout or keratin smoothing treatment. For tips on doing so, see here: http://amominredhighheels.com/keratin-treatment-choose-stylist/

    To answer Tammy’s question: As a stylist and as a client, I plan to continue with Brazilian Blowout and keratin smoothing treatments. I have been using and will continue to use a 3-tier air filtration setup: the Chemical Source Capture System and Room Air Purifier from Aerovex Systems, as well as an exhaust fan in my studio. Anyone (stylist or client) who is interested in reading more about this can do so at http://www.SaferBrazilian.com

  5. Statement from Brazilian Blowout on Facebook

    Brazilian Blowout
    Brazilian Blowout has formally initiated legal proceedings arising out of Oregon OSHA’s inaccurate and unsupported conduct. Brazilian Blowout intends to seek an award of punitive damages to dissuade Oregon OSHA from acting so recklessly again in the future. It is our intent to distribute all awarded proceeds to the salons and stylists who have supported Brazilian Blowout in the face of this adversity.

  6. antony white says:

    it`s funny that OSHA just told me they have not received any
    complaint from BB nor they received a letter from thir lawyer.
    Somebody here is lying and I don`t think is OSHA.
    do you??

  7. Ooooh I know what happened, Brazilian Blowout’s roommate got on the computer while it was in the shower and changed it’s Facebook status as a prank!

    Oh no wait that’s what happened to my brother at college 🙂

    Only time will tell. But considering the statement just went up yesterday afternoon, it would not be surprising if every employee at a Statewide agency wasn’t aware of it yet. And/or that representatives of the defendant in a lawsuit would be instructed not to discuss it.

    Thanks for the update, Amanda!

  8. Why would any salon owner allow stylist’s to use this product in their salon is beyond me! Brazillian Blowout is a harmful product, why risk it. Stylist’s are not going to wear a mask or require their client to. Also, are salon owner’s really going to install a proper ventillation unit costing $8,000. I thought brefifly about having this service performed in my salon. After comp[laints from other client’s not receiving this service, I decided against it. Not to mention, worrying about my stylist’s and my own health. One of my receptionist’s worked for this company in West Hollywood, The Argyle Salon. These people are greedy and liars.

  9. @DeDe You have made a decision based on the facts, and other salons will make different decisions. I only have a small loft studio and I’ve spent several thousand to create a safe environment for Brazilian Blowout and keratin treatments. Click on my name above for more details, if interested, though it seems you are not and I respect that.

    I do know larger salons that have spent more than I, since of course it costs more to protect a larger area with more people in it. If a salon does a lot of these services, it is worth it. If they only do a few here and there, I can understand why it would make more sense to scrap the service.

  10. ***CORRECTION: You have made your decision based on the information, perhaps not all of the information, and perhaps not all of which are facts. Much of the recent info has been questioned and there is a huge lawsuit over it, so it was my mistake to say “facts.”

  11. ATTN: Salon Owners and Stylists!! Join Doug Schoon in a FREE webinar from the Professional Beauty Association on OSHA regulations and keratin treatment safety: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/840781467

  12. Restorer Salon Air Cleaner Will remove all these chemical.Keeping you safe.
    facebook – restorer salon air cleaner

  13. A simple air purifier alone will NOT remove these chemical fumes from the air. I do not mean to be argumentative, but the website for the product posted above, doesn’t even claim it will do so.

    A Chemical Source Capture System scientifically verified to remove and capture formaldehyde from the stylists’s and client’s breathing zone is proper ventilation. It must have sufficient air flow as well as advanced filtration materials. A salon air purifier and special HVAC filters are also recommended as a comprehensive approach to salon ventilation, such as Aerovex Systems’ “3 Zone Protection” setup, shown and explained in the link below.

    Aerovex System’s “The One That Works” salon air purifier’s unique “Fountain Airflow” is especially effective in combination with their Chemical Source Capture System, allowing for removal of formaldehyde or other salon vapors and dusts.


    I have been using this system for over two years with great success, in my Los Angeles studio! See my setup at http://www.SaferBrazilian.com


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