A MAJOR hairdressing chain in Glasgow is pulling a hair treatment popular with celebrities which contains a “highly toxic” chemical amid growing fears over the health risks for staff and clients.

Rainbow Room International is phasing out keratin straightening treatments containing formaldehyde, which caused stylists to pass out when they were first introduced around ten years ago.

The chemical is found in many household products but some studies have shown an increased risk of certain cancers with high level exposure. It can also cause coughing,wheezing and skin irritation. It is common for clients to report streaming eyes during the treatment.

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Formaldehyde is released into the air when stylists seal the smoothing treatment into the hair using a blow-dryer and straightening irons, creating a steam which can go into the lungs.

Manufacturers of the de-frizzing treatments which are a favourite with celebrities including Nicole Ritchie and Sarah Jessica Parker and can cost up to £250, have gradually reduced the amount of formaldehyde.

A number of brands including market leader Nanokeratin, have now produced a formaldehyde-free version.

Riccardo Corvi, owner of Rainbow Room’s Ayr salon said hair salons “should not” be using formaldehyde treatments now because of a change in legislation last year, which banned the use of formaldehyde in treatments.

However, the Evening Times contacted the Scottish Government, the UK government, the Health and Safety Executive and BEIS’s Office for Product Safety and Standards and none were able to give any details about a change in the law.

Mr Corvi said:“The very first keratin products that had formaldehyde highly formulated and left hair poker straight.

“These then got banned and the 2nd generation of products were a bit better, however, they were just as bad for your hair, as they still contained some Formaldehyde, which is highly toxic.

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“When the product is worked through the hair it creates a steam, which can go into your lungs.

“This could cause a lot of harm; therefore, legislation changed and as of the middle of last year, all Keratin products, regardless of the brand, were required take out all formaldehyde ingredients.”

However, the owner of another salon believes some hairdressers may continue to use the treatments containing formaldehyde, because they work better and are cheaper.

Lynette Guy, owner of the Lynden Rooms in Giffnock, believes staff could be pursuing legal cases against employers in the future if they develop health problems, which could be linked to the treatment.

She says she refused “point blank” to use the treatment in her salons due to possible health risks for staff and clients.

Lynette said: “One of my friends who used one of the earlier treatments at her salon in Edinburgh, a couple of her girls actually passed out because of the fumes.

“So way back then I decided we absolutely weren’t going to use it.

“It was a huge money making thing for salons but we just refused point blank to get involved on a health basis.

“Obviously that’s not good for staff, if they are breathing that in and it’s certainly not good for clients.

“The long term effects were never known. “

The Evening Times contacted a hairdressing union for comment about the possible risks to staff from using the treatment but they did not respond.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “The hair and beauty industry is in the business of making people look and feel good and relies upon a skilled and dedicated workforce to deliver results. 

“These results should never compromise the health and safety of workers or clients and authorities should be ensuring that robust safeguards are in place.”

A spokeswoman for Nanokeratin UK said: “We know that a some stage it is likely that legislation will say treatments should not contain any formaldehyde.

“We have introduced the NanoSmooth Pure in preparation for that.”