Beautiful hair may come at a price: Many salon workers and clients are exposed to chemicals.

What are hair salon hazards?

Chemicals used in the beauty industry are unregulated, and many release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carcinogens.

Studies show that hairdressers have triple the risk of developing breast cancer and are more likely to develop leukemia and multiple myeloma.

There is no limit to how far people will go for great looking hair.  The zeitgeist of the last decade is characterized by celebrity styles that go from dark to light, curly to straight and vice versa.

The problem with indoor air pollutants – and hair salon hazards – is that many of the effects are long term.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.6 million people will die every year as a result of indoor air pollution.

Poor indoor air quality in salons

In salons, masks and general ventilation systems offer little or no protection against airborne chemicals that may cause damage to the immune, reproductive, neurological and respiratory systems.

On a daily basis, hairdressers are exposed to several chemicals including ammonia, phenylenediamine (PPD), sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. New trends like the Japanese and Brazilian straightening treatments add chemicals like formaldehyde to that roster.

Aside from causing hair loss, bruising and eczema like reaction on the scalp, Brazilian straightening treatments can cause lung inflammation, asthma, severe allergic reactions and death.

A list of toxic chemicals lurking in salons

  1. Ammonia
    Ammonia is used in hair dye to allow color molecules to penetrate.  Ammonia irritates the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, and may cause asthma and other breathing problems.
  2. Phenylenediamine (PPD)
    When it comes to hair dyes, Phenylenediamine (PPD) is the most common cause of allergic reactions.  This chemical is very toxic and when inhaled, it may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, nervous system and respiratory tract.  The fumes emitted by PPD also cause inflammation of the airways, which make it difficult to breathe.
  3. Sodium Hydroxide
    Sodium hydroxide is often used in hair relaxers and causes damage to the respiratory tract and severe pneumonitis.
  4. Formaldehyde
    Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.  Aside from being linked to cancer, it may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, coughing and wheezing, as well as skin irritation.  This chemical is also used to embalm the departed.

Gaseous pollutants like VOCs are the result of a variety of hair processes.  Combined with the regular air contaminating culprits – mold, dust mites, ozone and petrochemicals – poor indoor air quality is a real hair salon hazard.

Air cleaners for hair and hail salons need to be equipped with at least 27 pounds of activated carbon, and several inches of carbon filter depth.

Additionally, an electrostatic pre-filter accompanied by a pleated HEPA filter will help trap particle contaminants.

For more information, contact Electrocorp.

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