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America's Beauty Show Challenges Toxic Salons

CHICAGO, March 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's Beauty Show, March 28-30 in Chicago, is dedicated to safe and healthy beauty salons. By doing so, the Show raises serious and decades overdue concerns on the dangers of conventional nationwide salons.

Salon products are generally dispensed from bulk containers without labeled ingredients. Of particular concern is the cumulative contamination of air, particularly in poorly ventilated salons, with volatile ingredients and fine particles, particularly from hair sprays. Known as aerosols, these can penetrate deeply into the lungs of clients, and even more so their stylists working a usual five-day week.

Products used in the great majority of nationwide salons contain a wide range of toxic ingredients, including carcinogens, hormonal ingredients, and allergens. Exposure to them poses hidden dangers to clients, and much more so their stylists.

Stylists, particularly in small hair and beauty salons, tend to drift in and out of their jobs. So formal long-term studies to investigate dangers to their health, known as epidemiological, are not feasible. Moreover, there is substantial and long standing evidence on a wide range of toxic effects in salon workers, particularly hairdressers and beauty stylists. These include nausea, sleep disorders, fatigue, and numbness and pain in the fingers. They also include allergic dermatitis, acute lung irritation, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.

An additional poorly recognized danger from salon and personal use relates to hair straighteners based on thioglycolic acid. Besides causing hair to become brittle and break, they can also irritate the scalp and cause pustular and allergic reactions.

Of particular concern are hair dyes. About 35 percent of women and 10 percent of men are regularly exposed to these dyes in salons or by personal use. Black and dark brown permanent and semi-permanent dyes contain carcinogens, particularly those known as phenylenediamines. These have been shown to cause cancers, particularly non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and multiple myeloma, besides breast and bladder cancers. However, in spite of this long standing evidence, stylists, let alone their clients, remain unaware of these avoidable risks of sometimes lethal cancers. In sharp contrast to the U.S., these dyes have been banned in Europe.

The continued use of these dangerous hair dyes is all the more reckless. Safe certified organic dyes, particularly those marketed by Logona, a German company, are now available in the U.S. These dyes achieve stable and long-lasting colors, ranging from brown to black.

A recently recognized concern relates to the potent carcinogen vinyl chloride, a propellant in some pressure sprays, which has been incriminated as a cause of fatal liver cancer. Another recent concern relates to hormonal phthalates in sprays to which pregnant women may be exposed, and have been incriminated as a cause of congenital abnormalities in their male infants.

Of critical importance is the protection of clients and, even more so, their stylists by establishing efficient ventilation of salons, and their workstations. The efficiency of this ventilation should conform to certified national standards.

Information on all ingredients in all products used in salons, including their risks and recommended safety precautions, should be detailed and made readily available to all stylists in standard Material Safety Data Sheets. This information is legally required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for all workplaces with ten or more employees. However, this requirement is observed more in the breach than the performance. This information should also be made readily available to clients.

Pressure sprays should be banned. They release very fine particles which are readily inhaled into the depths of the lungs and can irritate and cause toxic effects. Pump spray products are very much safer as their particles are at least tenfold larger, and large enough to be filtered out through the nose. Polyvinyl pyrrolidine, a common ingredient in hair sprays, is designed to increase smoothness and flexibility of the hair. However, it can cause chronic lung damage and should be banned.

Finally, eyeliners, skin lightening creams, and some brands of mascara used in salons, besides being available for purchase in beauty supply stores, contain mercury as a preservative. However, even small doses of mercury accumulate and can cause neurological damage following long term exposure.

Samuel S. Epstein, MD

Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition

Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine

University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health

Chicago, Illinois

Author of Toxic Beauty, 2009, BenBella Books,



SOURCE Cancer Prevention Coalition
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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