Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds

Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds logo
A shared dialogue among Occupational and Environmental Medicine Physicians, the Minnesota Poison Control System, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Topic and Presenter

The High Cost of Making Others Beautiful: Occupational Exposures to Formaldehyde Among Hairdressers

Presented by Susan Arnold, PhD, CIH
Assistant Professor and Director, Exposure Science & Sustainability Institute, Division of Environmental Health Sciences School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Hairdressing is among the top five occupations at risk of occupational asthma, and tops the list of occupations at risk of occupational skin diseases, with a significant fraction of hairdressers ~ 46% developing skin disorders early in their careers. More than 637,000 hair professionals including hair stylists, barbers, and cosmetologists work in salons in the U.S. This number is expected to increase ~13 percent annually in the next decade. Women overwhelmingly dominate the industry, domestically representing more than 92% of hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists, and 86% of the broader industry including barbers. In the U.S. the mean age is 39.2 years(1, 2). A significant percent of hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists (43%), and the majority of barbers (72%) are self-employed. Hairdressers provide haircutting, hairstyling, (involving shampooing, rinsing, hair treatments such as bleaching setting or permanent waving and hair spraying) and other beauty services to their clients(3).

Hair stylists use a broad range of professionally formulated hair products that typically contain a complex mix of chemicals. Among the more complex products are hair bleaching and dye products. To achieve the desired hair color, hair dyes may include as many as 15 different dyes and dye precursors. Shampoos represent another product category comprised of complex formulations. Among the ingredients are detergent agents such as sodium lauryl sulfates and preservatives such as formaldehyde. Hair setting lotions and sprays are applied by BSPs to maintain the hair style. Hair sprays typically contain film formers, plasticizers and propellants such as polyvinylpyrrolidone, dimethylhydantoin-formaldehyde resin, acrylate-acrylamide polymers, ethanol, 2-propanol and acetone. Notably, hydrated and non-hydrated forms of formaldehyde have been identified in numerous hair straightening products. Some of these chemicals are released into the air, while others come into contact with exposed skin, presenting opportunities for local and systemic exposure through inhalation and dermal contact.

This presentation will focus on salon-related formaldehyde exposures and highlight some of the exposure risk factors possibly contributing to the high levels of occupational asthma among hairdressers.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Peteffi, G.P., M.V. Antunes, C. Carrer, E.T. Valandro, S. Santos, J. Glaeser et al.: Environmental and biological monitoring of occupational formaldehyde exposure resulting from the use of products for hair straightening. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 23(1): 908-917 (2016).
  2. Dahlgren, J.G., and P.J. Talbott: Asthma from hair straightening treatment containing formaldehyde: Two cases and a review of the literature. Toxicol Ind Health 34(4): 262-269 (2018).
  3. Kathleen G. Norlien, A.L., Allan Williams, Angeline Carlson: Occupational Health Survey of Cosmetologists in Minnesota. Journal of Environmental Health 79(9): 7 (2017).


The High Cost of Making Others Beautiful: Occupational Exposures to Formaldehyde Among Hairdressers (PDF)

Seminar Location

Minnesota Department of Health
Freeman Building - B-144
625 Robert Street N.
St. Paul, MN

7 a.m. - 8 a.m.
Doors open at 6:45 a.m.

Parking Map

Directions to the Minnesota Department of Health - Freeman location

WebEx Also Available

To register for this training session
Go to Session Information: E2 Grand Rounds and register.


Look for future EEGR seminars every second Wednesday of November, February, and May

About Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds

The purpose of Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds is to foster communication and multidisciplinary collaboration between medical and public health specialties through presentations and discussions that explore impact of environmental exposures on health.

CMEs are not offered for this EEGR.
We are looking into reinstituting them.

Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits have been offered for all previous Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds through Health Partners. Contact us at health.hazard@state.mn.us for more information.

We have a list of past seminars from the last three years. Information available includes the date, topic, speaker(s), and abstract.

Since 2007, MDH has hosted the Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds. For a complete list of presentations, please contact us through health.hazard@state.mn.us.

Suggestions for topics are welcome. Please send your suggestions to health.hazard@state.mn.us.

Comments or questions? Please contact us at 651-201-4897 or health.hazard@state.mn.us.

Updated Tuesday, 03-Sep-2019 20:38:10 CDT