Indoor air quality in hairdressing salons

Cosmetics and personal care products escape much of the environmental  scrutiny given to other products, such as household cleaning products, in GallonDaily’s experience. Critics of such products are often accused of having anti-feminist motives. Hence our attention was immediately drawn to a recently published study of air quality in hair salons prepared by researchers in the Department of Chemistry of the University of Bari, Italy.

Not surprisingly, compounds widely used in products for hair care such as spray lacquer and foam (butane), shampoo, balms, hair masks and oils (camphene, camphor, limonene, eucalyptol, alpha pinene, 1-methoxy-2-propanol, n-butanol and menthol), and hair dye (benzyl alcohol, isopropanol, limonene, hexane and methyl ethyl ketone) were found at much higher levels inside rather than outside the salons. The authors report that the importance of this finding is linked to the potential health hazards of some of the VOCs detected. Some of the contaminants are carcinogenic, though the nature of these suggests that the primary carcinogenic contaminants found had entered the salon from outside and may be the result of passing traffic.

Five of the twelve salons sampled had especially high levels of hazardous contaminants. Of the 39 substances monitored, 13 were found at indoor air concentrations 20 or more times greater than in outdoor air. One salon had exceptionally high concentrations of some of the air pollutants. There was considerable variability between salons and based on time of day and customer traffic.

The study showed that work activities and the types of products used, whether ecological or traditional, are determinants of indoor pollution levels. The levels may impact customers and, more importantly, employees who are exposed to these substances throughout the work week. The authors state that there is a need to change work habits in hairdressing salons in order to improve air quality. The fact that some salons had few indoor air quality problems while others were quite highly polluted suggests that choice of products, operational considerations, and air circulation could contribute to improved air quality.

The report Indoor air quality in hair salons: Screening of volatile organic compounds and indicators based on health risk assessment is published in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Chemistry and can be found at The brief abstract and access to figures is free; a fee or subscription is required for the complete paper.

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