Chemical Exposure and Allergies

Are the Products in Your Salon Putting Others at Risk?

There are many different ideas about what causes allergies. There is some evidence to suggest that working with skin and lung irritating chemicals could increase the incidence of allergies. At a meeting of the American Public Health Association it was revealed that researchers at the Boston School of Public Health in Massachusetts have been investigating the health risks of exposure to chemicals in hair salons. Out of 56 workers interviewed, 15% said they suffered from hives, eczema, and asthma. Thirty percent reported they had hay fever.

The study did not report whether these conditions stemmed directly from working in the salon, but the workers interviewed had a much higher than average exposure to skin and lung irritants found in permanents and hair relaxing treatments. This brings up another reason why switching to an ammonia- and thioglycolate-free hair treatment, like those offered by Organic Salon Systems, would be an excellent choice for salon workers. Not only is the worker who uses the chemicals exposed, but the worker next to her is exposed to airborne chemicals like ammonia.

Permanents and hair relaxing treatments contain powerful chemicals that break down the chemical bonds in the hair so that it can be reshaped. Most of these treatments contain ammonium thioglycolate, a known skin irritant and lung irritant. Ammonia is a gas with a density .589 times that of air. This means that when released, it is carried on the air. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states, “Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may be irritating to your skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and cause coughing and burns. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high concentrations of ammonia. Some people with asthma may be more sensitive to breathing ammonia than others.” [click here]

While it may not be verifiable that chemicals used in hair salons cause allergies, there certainly is a link between allergies and harsh chemicals, if only in the fact that harsh chemicals are far more likely to cause allergic reactions than everyday substances and people with allergies can be more sensitive to these substances. Many of the chemicals used in hair color, perm, and hair relaxing treatments are known to cause irritation to skin, eyes, throat and lungs, and cause coughing and rashes. These factors are some of the principal symptoms of allergies—watery eyes, coughing, eczema and other skin irritations. So it could be possible that people working with strong irritants without the proper safety equipment could be mistaking exposure to a toxic substance for allergies.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set exposure limits for ammonia at 25 ppm for an eight-hour period and 35 ppm for a short-term, 15-minute period. In addition to installing adequate ventilation in the salon, the exposure levels to this chemical could be almost eradicated by using products that do not contain ammonia. Because ammonia is a gas that spreads through the air, everyone in a salon is exposed to ammonia when it’s being used. The client is only there for a few hours at most, but the workers are in this environment 8 or more hours a day for a full week. This means that the hairdresser in the next station, as well as assistants and even the receptionist in some salons are being exposed. Changing a salon over to non-ammonia based products is a responsible and worker-friendly choice for salon owners. Additionally, with a lower incidence of illness in the workplace, they may find production increasing and business going better as a result.

Below are links to other articles that provide some general information of interest brought to you by Organic Color Systems. For additional articles and information visit us at one of our other Internet sites:

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  • Myrtle Farmwald

    i have been suffering from Asthma ever since i was little kid. i can only manage it by taking medicines and some food supplements. .

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