You wouldn’t think that making other people look good could be bad for your health. The fact is beauticians are exposed to some cosmetic ingredients that may cause them lung problems, allergies and cancer.
The latest report is that exposure to persulphate salts in hair bleaching agents may lead to occupational asthma and rhinitis (stuffy nose) in hair stylists. The salts are strong oxidizers that speed hair color changes. Italian researchers performed allergy tests, lung function tests, and specific inhalation challenge (SIC) on 47 hair stylists (mean age 25), suspected of having occupational asthma. Average overall duration of exposure to persulphate salts was seven years. Results showed that 51.1 percent of patients were diagnosed with occupational asthma, of which:
• 87.5 percent of the cases were attributed to persulphate salts
• 8.3 percent to permanent hair dyes, and 4.2 percent to latex
• 54.2 percent of patients were diagnosed with occupational rhinitis, of which 84.6 percent of the cases were due to persulphate salts.
• 36 percent of patients were diagnosed with occupational dermatitis (irritated skin).
Beauticians with occupational asthma attributed to persulphate salts had a long period of exposure to bleaching agents and a long latent period between the start of exposure and the onset of symptoms, according to the Italian researchers. Their study appears in the November issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.
About 2 million people work as hairdressers and barbers in North America and Europe. They are actually the “canaries” for the rest of us. (Canaries were used in the mines to give an early warning to miners about the presence of lethal gases.) Previous studies have shown:
• Male hairdressers had an increased incidence of cancer, particularly of the digestive tract, lung, colon, prostate, and bladder, according to Swiss scientists.
• Female hairdressers and cosmetologists had an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas, lung, cervix, skin, and bladder, and possibly of the breast, according to a report in the Environmental Health & Safety Newsletter.
• Female hair dressers, Michigan State researchers found, were at higher risks of developing a rare form of cancer of the salivary gland. The salivary glands secrete saliva in the mouth, which aids digestion. The researchers could not explain why hairdressers are more prone to these cancers but suspect it may be due to inhaled exposure to hairsprays or hair dyes.
• University of California researchers studying more than 58,000 hairdressers, manicurists, and cosmetologists found that the group developed multiple myeloma at four times the rate of the general population. Multiple myeloma is a malignant tumor of the bone marrow.
• Several studies reported in the scientific literature conclude there is growing evidence that hair dressers and cosmetologists are at higher risk for cancer of the breast and urinary tract, but whether this is due to dyes, some other substance they use, or even cigarette smoke, the final proof is yet to come.
What price beauty? For beauticians, it may be too high.