Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 1304–1314 | Cite as

Increase of global DNA methylation patterns in beauty salon workers exposed to low levels of formaldehyde

  • Eduardo Barbosa
  • Ana Laura Anibaletto dos Santos
  • Giovana Piva Peteffi
  • Anelise Schneider
  • Diana Müller
  • Diego Rovaris
  • Claiton Henrique Dotto Bau
  • Rafael Linden
  • Marina Venzon Antunes
  • Mariele Feiffer CharãoEmail author
Research Article


Formaldehyde (FA) is a carcinogenic aldehyde illegally added to creams as a hair straightening agent for the Brazilian blowout (BB). This study aimed to investigate the possible effects of occupational exposure to FA on global DNA methylation in salon workers with different exposure levels. FA exposure was monitored using environmental and biological measurements. The study included 49 salon workers divided by FA levels in the workplace into group A (FA < 0.01 ppm; n = 8), group B (0.03 ppm < FA < 0.06 ppm; n = 15), and group C (0.08 ppm < FA < 0.24 ppm; n = 26). The global DNA methylation levels were 3.12%, 4.55%, and 4.29% for groups A, B, and C, respectively, with statistically higher values for groups B and C compared to group A (p = 0.002). A correlation was found between FA in passive samplers and global DNA methylation (rs = 0.307, p = 0.032). Additionally, when only taking into account the hairdressers that performed the BB on clients instead of the whole group, a stronger correlation was observed between FA in personal passive samplers and global DNA methylation (rs = 0.764, p = 0.006). For the first time, an increase in DNA methylation was observed in subjects occupationally exposed to FA. In conclusion, our results indicated that even low levels of FA exposure could cause a disturbance in DNA methylation, leading to epigenetic changes, which is associated with cancer development. These data suggest a possible contribution of FA to cancer development through occupational exposure.


Formaldehyde Epigenetic Global DNA methylation Occupational exposure Hair straightening Brazilian blowout Formic acid 



The authors would like to thank CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Brazil) for the research fellowship provided to master degree student Eduardo Barbosa and Feevale University for the financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was carried out after approval by the Research Ethics Committee of Feevale University (CAAE 59967716.2.0000.5348).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardo Barbosa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ana Laura Anibaletto dos Santos
    • 1
  • Giovana Piva Peteffi
    • 1
  • Anelise Schneider
    • 1
  • Diana Müller
    • 3
    • 4
  • Diego Rovaris
    • 3
    • 4
  • Claiton Henrique Dotto Bau
    • 3
    • 4
  • Rafael Linden
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marina Venzon Antunes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mariele Feiffer Charão
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Analytical Toxicology LaboratoryUniversidade FeevaleNovo HamburgoBrazil
  2. 2.Graduate Program on Toxicology and Analytical ToxicologyUniversidade FeevaleNovo HamburgoBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Genetics, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  4. 4.ADHD Outpatient Program, Adult DivisionHospital de Clínicas de Porto AlegrePorto AlegreBrazil

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