A new bill aiming to better protect beauty salon workers from the chemical hazards they routinely face is making its way through the California legislature.
While beauty salons don’t normally conjure images of occupational hazards like some other occupations do, say for instance construction work or long-haul truck driving, the truth is that hairdressers, manicurists, and other salon workers face some of the biggest workplace risks with their daily exposures to toxic chemicals.
Formaldehyde, a highly volatile and toxic compound that poses a substantial threat to human health, is commonly found in and released by certain hair-smoothing products used by salons, such as Brazilian Blowout, a popular line of hair straighteners and smoothers.
During application, these hair straighteners and other products emit toxic fumes, which can build up in the air and pose a significant health hazard to salon workers, most of whom are of child-bearing age, and their clients.
Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes, and lungs; and is a significant cancer hazard. Salons that choose to use products that contain or release formaldehyde are required to abide by OSHA’s formaldehyde and hazard communication standards, but even with the regulations in place, many salon workers don’t fully understand the toxicity of certain products they routinely use.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires disclosure of ingredients for cosmetics and personal care products sold directly to consumers, but not for professional-use products. Typically, beauty salon workers and managers have no way of knowing what ingredients are in the products they use each day or if these ingredients could be harming their health.
According to Environmental Working Group, Assembly Member Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, introduced the California bill, and it looks positioned to pass. The bill would require professional cosmetics products used in California salons to disclose their ingredients on the label. The proposed legislation passed the Assembly unanimously in May and was approved in a unanimous bipartisan vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is now headed for a vote by the full Senate.
“Despite the overwhelming evidence that these formaldehyde-based treatments are not safe for consumers or stylists, the FDA has yet to act to protect the public. With such a lack of government oversight and protection, manufacturers should be required to disclose the ingredients in their professional use products, so that salon workers and managers can make informed decisions,” Environmental Working Group said in its news release about the proposed bill.