Quantcast
Health

Toxic Chemicals in Salons Linked to Adverse Health Effects, Including Cancer

Issues that primarily impact women often end up on the back burner. Maybe that's why the new study from Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE) on the health impacts of exposure to salon chemicals on the (mostly) women who work in personal care salons is the first of its kind. The study, Beauty and Its Beast: Unlocking the Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Salon Workers, reveals that long-term exposure to products routinely used in salons leads to an array of negative health conditions frequently suffered by beauticians and other salon workers.

This new report aggregates decades of research on the incidence of health problems in the beauty care workforce. Photo credit: Women's Voices for the Earth

“Studies across the globe have found correlations between chemical exposures in salons and adverse health outcomes in employees,” said the study's lead author Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for WVE. “However, until now, there has never been a comprehensive review of existing science that brings all the players onto one stage.”

"Salon workers, a population dominated by women, are exposed to a myriad of chemicals of concern every day in their workplaces," says the study. "Hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and numerous other salon products contain ingredients associated with asthma, dermatitis, neurological symptoms and even cancer. Salon workers absorb these chemicals through their skin and breathe them in as fumes build up in the air of the salon over the course of the workday. Research shows that salon workers are at greater risk for certain health problems compared to other occupations."

The report aggregates decades of research on the incidence of those health problems in the beauty care workforce. They include a disproportionate amount of cancers, neurological diseases such as dementia and depression, immune diseases, birth defects, reproductive disorders including a high rate of miscarriages, skin diseases, asthma and other breathing problems, as the workers are exposed to chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, methyl methacrylate, p-phenylenediamine and ammonium persulfate, as well as toluene, ammonia and methyl methacrylate, which are often found in the air of the salons.

WVE tracked down studies showing that hair and nail salon workers have higher risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx, bladder cancer and multiple myeloma, than the rest of the population. They are also more likely to have low birth weight babies, especially when they are repeatedly exposed to hairspray and permanent wave solutions, and have an increased risk of miscarriage and babies born with cleft palates as well. And a majority of salon workers suffer from skin conditions of various kinds and are more likely than other groups of workers to have throat problems like coughs and nasal and throat irritation.

“Once hair-smoothing products like Brazilian Blowout hit salons nationwide, these health issues went to a whole new level because of exposure to formaldehyde, which is very toxic,” said Jennifer Arce, a salon worker in San Diego. “Salon workers can experience bloody noses, sore throats, rashes and respiratory infections from breathing in these fumes while working in the salon each day.”

The report covers safety precautions that can be taken to protect workers and prevent some of these problems. They include using safer products, proper handling of products, appropriate protective equipment and better ventilation. It suggests the need for legislation to require full disclosure of ingredients in beauty products and their health impacts, such as the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act introduced last year by Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. It would regulate what chemicals these products could contain and require full a full listing of chemicals in each.

This week, WVE is in Washington, DC with salon workers and advocates from the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance for its annual Healthy Salons Week of Action. The group is visiting congressional offices to discuss the health threats to salon workers and emphasize the need for passing legislation. They will also meet with federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to talk about what those agencies can do to protect health health of workers in the beauty industry.

“I’m going to Washington, DC to speak with policy makers because they have the power to change our laws, and also to put some pressure on the FDA," said Arce. "It’s time for them to use the power they do have to issue a voluntary recall of Brazilian Blowout and other hair straighteners containing formaldehyde.”

“The salon industry knows how to use really hazardous chemicals to do cool things to hair and nails," said Scranton. "But from our research, the price to salon workers’ health is much too high. Ultimately manufacturers need to innovate to create benign solutions for hair and nails that can accomplish the same tasks and achieve the same effects. Salon workers’ health depends on it.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

9 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

How Climate Change Could Increase Pollen Levels by 200%

7 Nontoxic Nail Polish Brands

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo

One Year Into the Trump Administration, Where Do We Stand?

By John R. Platt

What a long, strange year it's been.

Saturday, Jan. 20 marks the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration officially taking office after a long and arduous election. It's a year that has seen seemingly unending attacks on science and the environment, along with a rise in hateful rhetoric and racially motivated policies. But it's almost been met by the continuing growth of the efforts to resist what the Trump administration has to offer.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Chris J. Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Slams Coca-Cola Plastic Announcement as ‘Dodging the Main Issue’

By Louise Edge

Friday Greenpeace criticized Coca-Cola's new global plastics plan for failing to address the urgency of ocean plastic pollution.

The long awaited policy from the world's largest soft drink company featured a series of measures weaker than those previously announced for Europe and the UK.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
The two young Iowa vandals knocked over 50 hives and exposed the bees to deadly winter temperatures. Colby Stopa / Flickr

Two Boys Charged With Killing Half a Million Honeybees in Iowa

Two boys were charged with killing more than a half million bees at a honey business in Iowa last month.

"All of the beehives on the honey farm were destroyed and approximately 500,000 bees perished in the frigid temperatures," Sioux City police said in a release.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Are Microwaves Really as Bad for the Environment as Cars?

According to many headlines blared around the Internet this week, "microwaves are as damaging to the environment as cars." But this misleading information, based on a new study from the University of Manchester, hopefully doesn't make you feel guilty about zapping your next Hot Pocket.

The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that microwave ovens across the European Union generate as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars and consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour of electricity per year. Okay, that sounds like a lot. But also consider that there are about 130 million microwaves in Europe and some 291 million vehicles on its roads.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO

Monsanto's Roundup Destroys Healthy Microbes in Humans and in Soils

By Julie Wilson

We're only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.

We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our "second brain," plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function and regulating our immune systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke refused to meet with National Park System Advisory Board members last year, prompting most of them to quit. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

From National Parks to the EPA, Trump Administration Stiff-Arms Science Advisers

By Elliott Negin

The Trump administration's testy relationship with science reminds me of that old saying: Advice is least heeded when most needed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Shutterstock

8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

By Caroline Cox

What keeps you up at night? Sick kids, restless pets, the latest tragedy on the evening news, politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, money troubles, job stress, and family health and wellbeing? There is no shortage of concerns that make us all toss and turn.

But what keeps the chemical industry up at night? A couple of decades ago a senior Shell executive was asked this very question. The answer? Endocrine disruption.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Dave Atkinson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why We'll March Again

This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Women's March that happened on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration—the largest protest march in our nation's history. The Sierra Club was there that day, and we'll be there this year, too—at a significant moment for women's rights and justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!