Hair spray one of 88 everyday products in the crosshairs of Utah air pollution regulators

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 9:56 a.m. MDT

Allison Loftin uses hair spray on Riddhita Chakraborty at Bladework Hair Studio in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 29, 2013. Products such as hair spray, carpet cleaners and air fresheners contribute to Utah's PM2.5 problem.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There are dozens upon dozens of household products that Utah air quality regulators may decide to impose new restrictions on as part of the effort to clean up the air.

It will include that oven cleaner stored under the kitchen sink, the car wax out in the garage and the bug killer spray out in the shed. 

Of the 88 everyday products under consideration for new limits on what is called volatile organic compounds, there is only one product that has residents upbraiding the state Division of Air Quality with their hair-raising concerns: hair spray.

"Nobody has commented about anything but hair spray," said the Utah Division of Air Quality's Joel Karmazyn, an environmental scientist.

Since the rule regulating the pollution-causing compounds in products went out March 1, he said he's received numerous calls from consumers opposed to having the altered hair spray on the shelves along the Wasatch Front.

In fact, Karmazyn has earned the moniker of the "man who wants to wreck hair spray," but he insists it is nothing personal, and the rule proposes nothing that isn't already in effect in 16 other states across the country, as well as the District of Columbia.

"It is new to Utah but it is nothing new in the United States," he said, adding some of the tighter restrictions aimed at personal care products have been on the books since 1999.

But the proposal has landed in the cross hairs of one beauty supply store owner in northern Utah who has launched a campaign asserting the altered hair spray will be practically worthless for some hairstyles.

"This just wrecks the hair spray and it doesn't help the inversion," said Matt Tribe, manager of Ogden Beauty Supply. While many hairstyles don't require "hard-hold" hair spray, older women prefer hair-dos that need a spray that lasts.

"There will be a lot of angry women," Tribe said. "This will be absolutely detrimental to hair spray."

Karmazyn counters that manufacturers of beauty-product lines that include hair mousse, gel and hair spray have adjusted their formulas over the years to keep them effective, but less harmful to the environment.

"Manufacturers have different lines," he said. "You have your Chevy and your Olds, but they are both made by General Motors."

The division worked in tandem with the Consumer Specialty Products Association to develop the rule, with the association weighing in to support consistencies in state regulations rather than a "patchwork" of different requirements.

Karmazyn said people have complained the rule unfairly goes after the "little things" in the pollution mix.

"The absolute most common comment I get is people who tell me what little bit they are using cannot possibly be harming the environment," he said. "What they don't realize is that small amount by many people contributes to a significant amount of (air pollution) tonnage a year."

The new rule seeks to reduce emissions from products like hair spray, carpet cleaner, air fresheners and brass polishers by 7,932 tons a year in Utah's counties that are out of compliance with federal clean air standards.

Karmazyn said of that amount, household products like oven cleaner and laundry detergent contribute 2,377 tons and personal care products such as deodorant and hair spray are blamed for 2,509 tons a year.

"Hair spray is a major portion of that," he said. "People think because it is a spritz here and a spritz there that it is hardly nothing. It is not insignificant."

The rule would require hair spray to have a different kind of propellent in it — one that contains lower volumes of the pollutants that slough off and hit the air.

in his research, Karmazyn said he found one brand of hairspray that had 24 different kinds of volatile organic compounds.

Other products that are subject to the new rule include all-purpose cleaners, hand sanitizers, dryer sheets and windshield washer fluid.

The chance to weigh in on the rule ends at 5 p.m. Monday, with the Utah Air Quality Board expected to take up the issue in May.

Comments are being accepted at jkarmazyn@utah.gov or mberger@utah.gov

E-mail: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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