Written By: Devin Golden

Asbestos Exposure for Hairdressers and Hair Stylists

Asbestos is a durable mineral and was added to paint mixtures. Professional painters and do-it-yourself painters during the 20th century were at risk of exposure to the cancerous substance.

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

Reviewed By

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

Reviewed By

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent


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Important Facts About Asbestos Exposure for Hairdressers and Hair Stylists

  • Hairdressers and hair stylists were at risk of exposure to asbestos in hair products and salons. These appliances and workplaces contained asbestos during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Hairdryers had asbestos as a way of preventing overheating.
  • According to one study, there were an estimated 30 cases of hairdressers and hair stylists diagnosed with mesothelioma from 2000-2009.
  • People diagnosed with mesothelioma due to the use of hair dryers can file legal claims for compensation. The manufacturing companies responsible for selling asbestos for use in hair dryers are liable.
  • Hairdressers also used powders and talc that is now proven to be contaminated with asbestos since talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals and often in the same geographical areas.

Overview of Asbestos in Occupations

The most common way people come into contact with asbestos is at their job due to the widespread use of the material by the United States. This is called occupational asbestos exposure. Asbestos was frequently used during the 20th century to prevent fires and insulate household appliances, work materials and building parts.

Unfortunately, asbestos can cause a few types of cancer, including a rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Approximately 2,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Mesothelioma tumors quickly spread to nearby organs and can evade cancer treatments.

The companies responsible for manufacturing asbestos put millions, if not billions, of Americans in danger during the 20th century. These corporations chose to withhold the health risks associated with asbestos. Their negligence and immoral actions killed many people and destroyed many families.

Fortunately, there are strict regulations in place today to protect the public from the reckless use of asbestos. However, many people are still at risk of exposure to asbestos, specifically legacy asbestos, or asbestos still remaining in old buildings or appliances. 

There are many occupations linked to asbestos exposure. Construction and insulation trades, including work in the military, rank near the top of the list. One of the more surprising occupations linked to asbestos exposure is hairdressers and hair stylists.

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Asbestos in Hair Products and Salons

Asbestos was incorporated into hair products and certain hand-held and overhead hair dryers to prevent overheating. This led to loose asbestos fibers in hair salons as well, and the fibers could linger in the workplace.

Asbestos in Hair Dryers

The use of a hair dryer can disturb the asbestos and send invisible flakes flying into the air, exposing anyone in the room to the toxic material.

According to an article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of hair dryers in 1979 due to asbestos infiltration. Despite the action, many hairstylists continued using asbestos-contaminated products through the 1980s.

Hairdressers using these products regularly from the 1950s-1970s were at imminent risk. According to the article, there were 30 reported cases of current or former hairdressers who developed mesothelioma between 2000 and 2009. Since mesothelioma has a long latency period of 20-50 years the timelines match.

Since some hair stylists continued to use older asbestos hair dryers through the 1990s, more mesothelioma cases connected to this line of work may develop in the 2020s and 2030s.

Hairdressers were also exposed to asbestos by using talc. They used cosmetic talc to set the style and make it last until the customer returned for another hair styling appointment. Barbers also used talc powders when cutting men’s hair.

How One Hairdresser Was Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

The study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health examines one individual case of a former hairdresser developing peritoneal mesothelioma. The 49-year-old female was diagnosed in 2004, received chemotherapy (pemetrexed, specifically) as front-line treatment and died in 2006.

According to the article, the woman worked in cosmetology and makeup artistry in New York from 1976-1992. During her eight- to 14-hour workdays, she consistently used a hair dryer 4-5 days a week. She held the dryer – at most – 2 feet from her face.

“According to her description of work,” the article states, “the hairdryer discharged asbestos fibers into her breathing zone daily.”

For 16 years, the woman unknowingly experienced regular exposure to asbestos. She had no idea her chosen career path would put her in danger every day.

According to the article, there were 30 documented cases of mesothelioma among hairdressers diagnosed from 2000-2009.

Patient Advocacy Help for Hairdressers and Hair Stylists

If you are or once were a hairdresser and developed mesothelioma — or contracted the cancer from any other occupation — we can help. Our team of patient advocates focuses on guiding asbestos exposure victims through the medical process.

We can refer you to the top mesothelioma specialists in the world for treatment and assist you with finding legal representation.
Email either of our patient advocates — Karen Ritter, RN (karen@mesotheliomaguide.com) or Carl Jewett (cjewett@mesotheliomaguide.com) — to get more information.

Sources & Author

  1. Case report: peritoneal mesothelioma from asbestos in hairdryers. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4273513/. Accessed: 07/17/19.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.