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Hairdressers at Risk of Developing Cancer

February 04, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

Workers in the beauty industry face risks of exposure to products that contain hazardous chemicals, potentially putting his or her life at risk. Some chemicals found in hair products and cosmetics have been found to disrupt the endocrine system and are a catalyst for developing certain cancers. Hairsprays and hair dyes, skin creams and cosmetics, and nail products often contain formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene, triclosan, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and asbestos fibers that are known human carcinogens. As a result, cosmetologists face unique chemical dangers that may lead to the development of certain cancers

Beauty May Come at a High Price

Some beauty products contain chemicals that pose cancer risks.  In the 1970s,  many common hair products and cosmetics were found to contain chemicals linked to cancer. At this time, thousands of injury claims were filed by workers within the beauty industry. Many U.S. manufacturers removed dangerous chemicals after testing proved carcinogens were present, but some manufacturers, especially those out of the country, neglected to make changes. Some hair and beauty products on the market containing dangerous chemicals still remain. These chemicals disrupt the endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions such as metabolism, growth and development, heart rate and blood pressure, body temperature, sleep cycles, appetite, sexual function, and reproduction. The symptoms of endocrine disorders can vary widely, ranging from mild to severe, depending on the specific gland affected.

Common symptoms of endocrine disorders include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bone loss and muscle weakness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • Skin changes
  • Dehydration

Endocrine disorders contribute to a variety of serious diseases including diabetes, Addison’s Disease, Cushing’s Disease, and Mesothelioma. These disorders also contribute to cancers such as skin cancer, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Occupational Exposure to Asbestos

Hairdressers have a particularly high risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and asbestos in the workplace. Prior to the late 1970s, both commercial hooded hairdryers and home hand-held hair dryers contained asbestos. This was used as a lining near heating elements and served as a heat shield to prevent burns and overheating. Hairdressers and customers were exposed to airborne asbestos fibers generated by hair dryers. With continued exposure, thousands of occupational injury claims were generated.

In 1979, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health researched the effects of asbestos exposure from hair dryers. Test results showed that most hair dryers released asbestos fibers and put exposure well above OSHA’s permissible exposure limit of .1 fibers/cm3. During this time, and well into the 1990s, injury claims for mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, were seen by workers’ compensation lawyers across the country. Subsequently, courts were flooded with mesothelioma lawsuits linked to occupational exposure to asbestos.

Due to health and safety regulations by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and OSHA, hairdryers sold in the United States no longer contain asbestos. However, some hairdressers and salon workers may still be using older models or hair dryers made in foreign countries where the use of asbestos is not regulated.

Filing a Workers Comp Claim in Iowa

In Iowa, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits that cover reasonable medical care, permanent, partial, temporary, or total disability, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits. However, these benefits are not automatically granted. A claimant must go through a process that includes notifying his or her employer of injuries, preparing proper paperwork, and filing a claim within a two-year statute of limitations. If the worker has been receiving weekly workers’ compensation benefits, he or she has three years from the date of the last payment to file a claim.

Employer Notification

A claimant should notify his or her employer of the acquired injury in writing, providing a concrete record of the incident. Notification must include the date, time, and place of the accident. The employer must receive notification within 90 days from the date of the accident, or worker’s compensation benefits may be denied.

Exceptions to the 90-Day Rule

If a worker has a slow-developing injury or illness or a cumulative trauma injury that is work-related and results in a disability, the notification may be extended until the condition is discovered.

Denied Claims

Most workers’ compensation claims are denied due to failure to notify the employer within 90 days or failure to prove that the injury is work-related. When a claim is denied, an appeal can be filed. After filing, a hearing will be scheduled with the individual to review the claim. It is best if experienced legal representation is present at the hearing to provide legal advice and address questions and reasons for the denied claim on behalf of the worker.