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Hairdressers and Asbestos Exposure


Overview of the Hairdresser Profession

Hairdressers (also known as hair stylists, hair technicians, cosmetologists, beauticians or barbers) have been around for almost as long as human vanity. Distinctive and complex hairstyles have been a symbol of status or nobility for as long as human history has been recorded. Today's stylists draw from an ever-evolving array of products, tools and techniques to not only cut hair, but also shape, style, shampoo and color. These personal appearance professionals are expected to clean and maintain their work areas and instruments as well. Hairdressers working in the United States must possess a license from a state-sanctioned school, although license qualifications vary from state to state. Educational programs at barber, beauty and cosmetology schools usually range from nine to twenty-four months, and graduating students must then take a state licensing test. Some states require aspiring stylists to pass a physical examination before obtaining their licenses. Approximately 800,000 personal appearance professionals current work in the United States, and half of those are self-employed.

And though one might not think that hairdressers' clean, well-ventilated work environments could be as conducive to occupational asbestos exposure as more labor-intensive professions such as construction or carpentry can be, recent evidence has shown that hairdressers are also very much at risk of contracting potentially lethal asbestos cancer like mesothelioma.

Hairdressers Are at Risk for Asbestos Exposure on the Job

The occupations most at risk of asbestos exposure usually involve working in closed, cramped quarters with poor (if any) ventilation. That is why it may be surprising to learn that hairdressers - in their open and well-lit places of work - are also operating at a surprising level of endangerment for on-the-job asbestos inhalation. The reason? Up until the late 1970's, asbestos was frequently used as an insulator and heat shield in hair dryers - both the hand held variety as well as the hood-type "bonnet" dryers. In fact, hairdressers are often at a disadvantage as compared to other professions because hair dryers actually force toxic and deadly asbestos fibers into hairdressers' respiratory systems via the hair dryers' increased air flow and wind generation. Further intensifying the dangers, handheld dryers are often held close to the stylists' faces, making inhalation more of a possibility. In the hood-style bonnet dryers, the asbestos linings inside the hood of the equipment can often crumble (also known as becoming "friable") over time, easily leading to the dangerous scenario of airborne asbestos dust in the workplace. Even hairdressers' family members are susceptible to asbestos disease, having possibly inhaled airborne asbestos dust and fibers brought home via unwashed hair, skin, shoes and clothes.

Hairdressers May Have Been Exposed to a Variety of Asbestos Products

In 1979, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an extensive recall of hair dryers and other salon accessories that contained asbestos. The following is a list of the asbestos-containing products hairdressers may have come into contact with (manufacturers of these products are listed in bold). These manufacturers and retailers accounted for about 90 percent of the annual U.S. sales of hair dryers at the time. If you have used any of these dryer models in the course of your career it is possible that you may be at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma:


Hair dryer styles and models: Electra Dryer, model ED, Electra Dryer 11, model ED2; Ultra 1200, model U-12; Elite 1500, model 480-EL; and Elite 1250, model E-12.

Bonat Inc

"Rocket Blower" models B-10, B-11 and B-14.


Son-of-Gun Style Nos.TD-1, TD-2 (Asbestos decorative element) and Super Zap Style No. sz-1.

Conair Corporation

Style Stream 070, Pistol Power 0991, Dial 'N Dry 140V, Pro Style 065, Jr. Pro 066, and Thermo Styler 067.

Dominion Division of Scovill Manufacturing

3806Y Portable Hair Dryer, 3806P Portable Hair Dryer, 1841 Comb & Dry Hair Dresser, 3840 1000 Watt Gun Type Hair Dryer and 3850 Comb & Dry Hair Brush.

General Electric Company

Hand Held Pro Pistol (PRO-l/5105-013-Power Pro), Pro Pistol (PRO-2/5108-005-Super Pro), Pro Pistol (PRO-3/5107-01l-Pistol Pro), Pro Pistol (PRO-4/5109-00l-Pro Dryer), Pro Pistol (PRO-5/5110-013-Power Pro), Pro Pistol (any PRO-6-Super Pro Dryer), Pro Pistol (PRO-10/5115-013-Power Turbo), Pro Pistol (**PRO-11/5116-005-Super Turbo), Power Brush (PB-l/5113-005-Power Brush), Styling Dryer (SD-112-Styling Dryer), Styling Dryer (SD-4/5101-013-Styling Dryer), Styling Comb (STC-l/lA-Styling Comb) and Styling Comb (STC-2-Mist Styling Comb).

The Gillette Company

Max THD-2, Max Plus THD-2A, Max for Men HD-3, Max HD-4, Supermax HD-5, and Maxhatter AD-6 Bonnet Dryer.

Hamilton Beach Division of Scovill Manufacturing

458 Portable Hair Dryer with Mist Groomer attachment, 422 portable version of 479, 423 Groomer III Englishtown, 480 Pro 1200 Watt Hair Dryer, 434B Female Groomer with case, 433 Male Groomer with case, 432 Hot Comb, 479 Deluxe Blower Styler, and 425 Blower Styler.

J.C. Penney

064-1050A 1000 watt pro dryer, 064-1121 1000 watt rotary styler dryer, 064-1145 and 064-1146 1200 watt pro dryer, 064-1180 1400 watt pro dryer, 064-1190 1200 watt adjustable pro dryer, 064-1186 1200 watt pro dryer, 1200 adjustable pro dryer, 1210 Treasury and the 1213 Thrift model.


HA 22M-1200 Watt Pro Dryer, HA 2214-1400 Watt, HA 1214-1400 Watt, Model 23A - 1000 Watt Curl Brush Dryer, and Model 7047 - 1000 Watt Compact Hair Dryer.

Montgomery Ward & Company

Last five digits of model numbers 19361 all units, 19363 all units, 19367 (some have; some don't), 19368 (some have; some don't), 19369 all units, 19373 all units, 19374 all units, and 19375 all units.


HB 1700 (black), HP 2600 (green), HP 3600 (tan), and HP 3601 (tan).

North American Philips Corporation

HB-1700 Norelco 1000 (Black color), HB-2600 Styler Dryer (Green color), HB-3600 Styler Dryer (Tan color), HB-3601 Styler Dryer (Tan color), and HC-1107 Hot Comb (Brown color).


Elastic Bonnet, models LP04 and PPlOA; Professional Hood, model PP18A; Mist Hood, models PP19A and PP19B; Styling Comb, model PP24A; and Mist Styling Comb, model PP25A.

Schick, Inc.

PD-1001, PD-1001-A and PD-1201.

Sears, Roebuck & CO.

These are raised numbers permanently molded into the pistol grip of these dryers - 253.6314, 253.6369, 253.6385, 253.8700, 253.8714, 253.8736, 253.8754, 253.8782, 253.8783, 253.6374, 253.6377, 253.8704, 320.6350, and 320.8706.

Sperry Rand Corp. (Remington)

Heat Wands have heater mounts with "asbestos glass laminate core," in models HW-1, HW-2, HW-3, HW-4, and HW-6. Heater supports with "inorganically bonded asbestos," in models PD-600, PD-750, PD-850 and PD-900.

Sunbeam Corporation

Northern Model 1821 (700 Watt professional dryer), Northern Model 320.6350 (700 Watt professional dryer), Northern Model 320.8706 (700 watt professional dryer), Oster Model 202 Air Jet Hair Dryer, Oster 301 Styling Dryer, Oster 302 Blo-Wave Hair Dryer, Sunbeam D-CW Professionaire, 52-9C Professionaire, 52-9K Professionaire, 52-9H Professionaire, 52-9P Professionaire, 52-125 Professionaire, and 52-9R Professionaire.

Mesothelioma is an Asbestos-Related Disease that Hairdressers May Develop

When asbestos dust is inhaled, it becomes lodged in the lungs and the surrounding membrane, where it aggravates and inflames the tissue. Over time, what starts as minor irritation can grow into scar tissue and diseases such as asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer, and mesothelioma. As the scarring intensifies, one might have difficulty breathing as lungs are further constricted, which in turn may lead to high blood pressure and heart failure. In addition, asbestos is a proven carcinogen that has been linked to many kinds of cancer - most often lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer. Many decades can sometimes elapse between a hairdresser's initial exposure and the development of asbestos-related disease, even if he or she has been retired and/or not subjected to exposure for years and years. This delay between exposure and symptoms is called the latency period. The following sections contain more-detailed descriptions of malignant mesothelioma in general and the various types of mesothelioma that a hairdresser may develop due to inhalation of asbestos fibers.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a malignant cancer which occurs in the mesothelium, a membrane that lines the abdomen, heart and chest. Mesothelioma is the direct result of asbestos inhalation and has not been connected to any other cause.

When mesothelioma occurs in the chest (about three-quarters of the time), it is referred to as pleural mesothelioma; when it appears in the stomach it is called peritoneal mesothelioma. Sometimes mesothelioma can also be found in the lining near the heart, in which case it is known as pericardial mesothelioma. Wherever they may appear, malignant mesothelioma tumors are exceptionally destructive and can metastasize quickly to other parts of the body. If detected early, the tumor can be removed before it spreads. However, since mesothelioma's initial symptoms are difficult to distinguish, diagnoses often occur too late for the tumor to be isolated and taken out. After the tumor has propagated, doctors can only hope to curtail its growth through treatments such as mesothelioma radiation or chemotherapy, as the disease itself is incurable. About three thousand patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States.

Pleural Mesothelioma

The lining of the chest consists of two layers, between which is a lubricating fluid that helps the chest and lungs expand and contract as one inhales and exhales. At the onset of pleural mesothelioma, the chest lining scars and thickens, saturating the space between the layers and producing large amounts of additional fluid. The first symptom of pleural mesothelioma - shortness of breath during exercise - is frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed. As the disease progresses, common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss, shortness of breath (even at rest), weakness, fatigue, lower back pain, coughing and difficulty swallowing. This disease is often in its advanced stages when its symptoms are correctly diagnosed. This leads to a poor overall mesothelioma survival rate for most patients.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

As with the lining in the chest, one's abdominal cavity also consists of two layers covered by a lining. At the onset of peritoneal mesothelioma, a tumor develops within this lining, causing it to thicken around the abdominal organs. Fluid production increases, which in turn leads to abdominal swelling. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include loss of appetite and/or weight, weakness, nausea, and abdominal pains which accompany the abdominal swelling.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari
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