Thomas Leighton, co-owner of Parlour, a salon in Portland, Maine, says there's an ugly side to the beauty business.
"I've worked in the industry 16 years and I've known my people who've developed allergies and other problems after using these chemicals for so long,"Leighton said.
He said stylists are particularly concerned about chemical compounds called phthalates that are found in many hair products, including shampoos, mousse and hair spray.
"The science is clear. Phthalates are among the worst of the worst," Kathy Kilrain del Rio, of the Maine Women's Policy Center, said. "Phthalates disrupt testosterone and thyroid. They harm the brain and affect reproductive health."
But right now, consumers don't know which products contain phthalates because they're not listed on products, except under the generic term "fragrance."
The salon owners are joining a coalition of mothers and environmental activists asking the state's Department of Environmental Protection to better protect consumers by requiring companies to disclose their use of the chemicals.
"We would like four pthalates labeled as 'priority chemicals,' which would require manufacturers to let the public know if they're being used in products that are used by children or pregnant women," Kilrain del Rio said.
The salon owners sent their letter to the DEP on the final day of the comment period for the proposal. Now the DEP will review and decide whether or not to adopt the proposed rule change.
Mike Karagiannis, rule-making liaison for the DEP, said it will take months to review and respond to the hundreds of comments they've received. During that time, he said they'll also review the available science on phthalates.
"We still have to consult with the Maine CDC, and look at the trade documents to see- does this meet the requirements to move it to the priority chemical list," Karagiannis said.
Salon owners say they simply want to be able to make informed decisions.
"Everything we put on the skin and hair goes into the body. People have a right to know what's in it," Leighton said.
The regulatory change would not require manufacturers to list the chemicals on the product label--only to make the information available somewhere were consumers can access it.