Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, with only one known cause – exposure to asbestos.

Hairdresser may not be the first occupation that comes to mind when considering asbestos exposure, but according to a recent report in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, a 49-year-old hairdresser was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the abdominal area) in 2004, and died in 2006 as a result of the cancer. The cause was “exposure to asbestos containing hairdryers”. No other asbestos exposure was identified in the case.

The report goes on to explain that handheld hair dryers containing asbestos were commonly used through the early 1980s. Not surprisingly, the highest risk group was found to be hairdressers because of their high usage rate.

Additional Studies Confirm Asbestos Danger from Hair Dryers

A 1979 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report and an independent analysis confirmed: “. . . asbestos fibers emitted from hair dryers may pose a significant health threat to consumers.” The report went on to explain: “It is clear that asbestos fibers are released during the operation of most hair dryers tested, in some cases in considerable quantities.”

Prior to the early 1980s, many major manufacturers produced and sold hair dryers that contained asbestos. They chose to use asbestos as an insulator in the hair dryers because of its natural strength, flexibility, and heat resistance—ideal characteristics for a hair dryer. As with hundreds of other consumer products, many manufacturers knew about the dangers of asbestos, but chose to use it anyway – putting profits ahead of people.

Among these hairdryer manufacturers were: Conair Corp.; General Electric Co.; Gillette Co.; Korvettes, Inc.; Montgomery Ward; North American Philips Corp. (Norelco); J.C. Penney Co.; Scovill Manufacturing Co. (Hamilton-Beach and Dominion); Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Sunbeam; and Schick, Inc.

Mesothelioma Can Take Decades to Develop

It can take only 1 asbestos fiber to cause mesothelioma. Hairdressers who worked prior to the early 1980s were at high risk for repeated workplace exposure.

Mesothelioma is particularly dangerous because of its long latency period – symptoms can develop 20-50 years after exposure. That means hairdressers who could have been exposed decades ago, may now be at risk of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

If you worked as a hairdresser prior to the 1980s and have experienced any symptoms of mesothelioma, be sure to see your doctor and explain your possible exposure to asbestos.

Were you exposed to asbestos while on the job? Learn more about asbestos exposure in the workplace and the types of jobs that are at risk.