A recent issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health contains some sobering news for hairstylists. A frightening new report highlights the potential link between the frequent use of hairdryers and a higher risk of deadly malignant mesothelioma.
Hairdressers are not typically counted among the occupations at elevated risk for mesothelioma. Construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and others who work with asbestos-containing insulation have the highest incidence of mesothelioma, which is caused by inhaling the tiny fibers. But the same qualities that make asbestos such a good insulator in construction products, also make it ideal as an insulator and heat shield inside hairdryers.
Hundreds of models from almost every major manufacturer were once made with asbestos. The asbestos heat shields were not a danger when the hairdryers were new in the 1960s and 1970s. The problems is that asbestos crumbles as it deteriorates, making it possible for the deadly fibers to be blown out of hairdryers and increase the mesothelioma risk for anyone in the vicinity. The risk of mesothelioma increases with increased asbestos exposure.
In an effort to protect workers and consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled asbestos-containing hairdryers in 1979. Unfortunately, the damage may have already been done for many people in the industry. Although modern hairdryers are no longer made with asbestos, the long latency period of the disease means that fibers inhaled by hairstylists even decades ago could still trigger mesothelioma today.
The authors of a new case report reviewed one patient’s medical and occupational records and determined what they believe was the cause of her peritoneal mesothelioma. “The results indicate that the subject developed peritoneal mesothelioma from her occupational exposure to asbestos-containing hairdryers in accordance with the literature,” states the report.
People who worked around hairdryers prior to the recall should be especially aware of the risk of mesothelioma and know the symptoms. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the abdomen and can cause abdominal pain and swelling and loss of appetite.
Dahlgren, J and Talbott, P, “Case report: peritoneal mesothelioma from asbestos in hairdryers”, January 2015, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health