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Hairdressers - Mesothelioma Risks

When we go to a hair salon, we expected to be pampered and treated nicely. Part of the salon experience is getting to talk to the hairdresser. Many men and women develop a unique bond with their dresser. While they trim, cut, curl and dry, they listen to you and chat along. However, many of these hairdressers, women especially, were being harmed almost every time they did their jobs. One of the most commonly used tools in the cosmetology industry, the hairdryer, contained the harmful material asbestos, which is known to cause a deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. Hundreds of women have fallen victim to mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases due to this exposure, and thousands more are at risk.

Asbestos was used in hairdryers because it provided good insulation qualities. It kept hairdryers safe and fire resistant; it could be found in hood dryers, used to set perms and coloring, and in the body and filters of hand-held hair dryers as well. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed, so every time one of these was used, asbestos fibers were released from the dryer. Once released into the air, the fibers could easily be breathed by anyone nearby—most often the hairdresser. After entering the body, these fibers cannot be expelled (unless attached to a mucus, which rarely happens). Instead, they become trapped in the lining of the lung and chest cavity, called the mesothelium. The fibers are harsh and scratchy, and cause inflammation and irritation to this sensitive lining.

Asbestos is a carcinogen, and it is this factor that leads the mesothelioma to develop. The carcinogenic properties affect the cells within the mesothelium, causing a tumor to form from the overproduction of cells. The tumor starts out in the mesothelium, but can quickly spread throughout the chest cavity, and even down to the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma has been known to affect the heart and organs in the abdomen, and can spread to the lymph nodes as well.

Still, mesothelioma is very under-diagnosed. Its symptoms mimic those of more common illnesses, and even a doctor can overlook it. Extensive testing and biopsies are required to correctly diagnose mesothelioma. For hairdressers, they may not even be aware that their profession exposed them to such a harmful material, and may neglect to tell a physician when required. This fact alone can cause a doctor to mistake mesothelioma for something else, leaving it untreated for years. Mesothelioma is a very slow-developing cancer. Its latency period can be as long as thirty years or more. By the time symptoms become somewhat noticeable, the cancer may have progressed to such late stages that treatments may prove ineffective, leaving the patient with a poor life expectancy.

If you or a loved one were a hairdresser prior to the 1980s, there is a good chance that you or they were exposed to asbestos without knowing it. It is important to visit with a doctor regularly to undergo testing for mesothelioma. If the cancer is caught early on, the prognosis is much more positive, and treatments can be more effective. Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer that has killed thousands of people. Asbestos manufacturers knew of the risks of their product and neglected to do anything about it, and millions are paying for it now.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020