Hairdressers and Hair Stylists and Mesothelioma
Asbestos is fire and heat-resistant and doesn’t conduct electricity, so it was used in handheld and hood-style hair dryers. Asbestos fibers are dangerous when in the air because they can be inhaled or swallowed and get stuck in the body. Though it may take years or decades, they could restrict your ability to breathe and cause cancer.
These hair dryers used fans so fibers would blow out of them. Manufacturers stopped selling asbestos-containing hair dryers in 1980 but older, dangerous models may have been used for many more years. Hairdressers may have also used talcum powder contaminated with asbestos.
What Does a Hairdresser or Hair Stylist Do?
Hairdressers cut, trim, wash, color, and style hair to enhance or maintain a customer’s appearance. Hair dryers are used after the customer’s hair is washed.
How Would a Hairdresser or Hair Stylist Be Exposed to Asbestos?
Hair dryers contain a heating element and a fan. Asbestos was used as heat insulation to protect the user. Asbestos-containing hairdryers were used in homes and professionally. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 1979 estimated about five million asbestos-containing hair dryers were used in the US. The hair dryer could expel fibers after it was turned on.
The CPSC received an independent analysis confirming that asbestos fibers blown out of hair dryers could “pose a significant health threat to consumers.” Most of the 30 hair dryers tested emitted asbestos fiber levels similar to or greater than other dangerous situations, such as those found near construction sites.
Testing found that in some cases, “considerable quantities” of fibers blew out of hair dryers. One researcher stated the fiber concentrations from the hair dryers “exceeded the highest we have measured in eight years of surveillance of environmental asbestos contamination.”
The CPSC negotiated a recall by 37 companies that sold nearly all handheld hair dryers made with asbestos. This resulted in them no longer being sold and enabled owners to return asbestos-containing hair dryers for a repair, replacement, or refund.
Hairdressers and hair stylists also use talcum powder on their customers to absorb moisture, calm irritations, and more easily brush cut hairs from the back of the neck. Some talcum powder products have tested positive for asbestos.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Asbestos fibers inhaled or swallowed from the air can get stuck in different organs, eventually causing many potentially fatal conditions, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services:
- Asbestosis: Fibers can cause severe lung scarring, which makes inhaling air and exhaling carbon dioxide difficult, impacting everything a person can do. This usually develops in those with heavy asbestos exposure
- Lung cancer: Malignant tumors invade and block the lung’s air passages. Immune system cells try to rid the body of asbestos fibers but cannot. Over time genetic changes happen in cells, and they become cancerous. Those who smoked tobacco and were exposed to asbestos have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer
- Pleural mesothelioma: This is a rare cancer of the membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity. Asbestos fibers work their way into the pleura, and over decades genetic changes result in a fatal form of cancer
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Swallowed fibers could travel through the digestive tract and become lodged in the peritoneum, the membrane covering the abdominal cavity and organs. Decades later, they could cause mesothelioma
- Pericardial mesothelioma: This condition is caused by asbestos fibers in the membrane lining the heart
If you worked as a hairdresser or hair stylist and were exposed to asbestos, see a healthcare professional to see if it’s affecting your health.
How Dangerous is Mesothelioma?
Treatment may extend your life and improve its quality, but pleural mesothelioma is an incurable cancer. How long you’ll live after your diagnosis depends on many factors, including age, overall health, and the type and stage of your pleural mesothelioma. Generally, about 73% of patients survive a year after diagnosis, and about 12% survive five years later.
A study of peritoneal mesothelioma patients found nearly half survived seven years after treatment, while pericardial mesothelioma patients, according to another study, on average, only survived two months after diagnosis.
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If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease after working as a hairdresser or hair stylist, Satterley & Kelley mesothelioma attorneys can advise you on protecting your rights and getting justice.