ASTHMA - Toxic Beauty

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ASTHMA - Toxic Beauty

Asthma is a common condition affecting the respiratory system . In the UK, as of July 2007, one adult in 13 was undergoing treatment for asthma, and it is the most common chronic disease of childhood in the developed world. In asthma sufferers, the airways that transport air into and out of the lungs become sensitive when they come into contact with something that causes them irritation (asthma trigger), such as allergens, Cold, warm or moist air, exercise or emotional stress.

This leads them to tighten and the muscles around them constrict, resulting in inflammation of the lining of the airways, and often the overproduction of mucus or phlegm. The outcome is difficulty getting enough breath, causing symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.

Perfumes can trigger asthma attacks in some individuals and one very potent respiratory irritant is toluene, used in nail products, fragrances and other household products. An australian study investigating the link between domestic exposure to volitale organic compounds (VOCs) and asthma in young children found that touene is a significant risk factor for asthma.

In 1991 toluene was added to Proposition 65 in the State of California as toxic to reproduction and some occupational exposures to toluene have been linked to spontaneous abortion or offspring with birth defects.

According to the Us Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the highest concentration of toluene usually occur in indoor air from common household products, such as paints, paint thinners, synthetic fragrances and nail polish, as well as cigarette smoke.

Benzene, a solvent sometimes used in nail polish removers and perfumes, and ethylbenzene, predominantly used to make styrene and in the production of rubber and plastic wrapping, were the strongest asthma triggers in the aforementioned Australian study, in that order Benzene is a knoiwn carcinogen and has been shown to cause blood disorders, damaged bone marrow, aplastic anaemia, DNA damage and leukaemia in occupational settings. It is banned for use in cosmetic products in the EU and Canada.

Ammonium thioglycoalate is used as a hair straightening agent, anti-oxidant and depilatory in hair-waving and straightening products, and in hair removing products. In an exposure study, 14 patients with asthma inhaled mists of ammonium thioglycolate at various concentrations. It was found that it caused asthmatic breathing, an uncontrollable cough and blocked nasal passages or nasal drip in 13 of the 14 patients.

People who are exposed to high concentrations of chemicals on a regular basis through their employment can face higher risks of developing respiratory problems or exacebating already existing conditions.

Hairdressers, for example, are occupationally exposed to a wide variety of irritating and allergenic chemicals and have an increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory symptoms.

In a study of hairdressers in Sweden, the hairdressers who frequently conducted hair bleaching treatments or used hairspray had a slightly higher incidence of asthma, although the study states that the results are not conclusive .

Other substances linked with asthma and lung disease include the following:

Persulphate Salts (sodium and potassium sulphate) added to hair bleaches to accelerate the bleaching process can cause occupational asthma along with other respiratory problems and skin conditions.

PVP {polyvinylpyrrolidone) or its co-polymers, used in many hairsprays to coat the hair, can cause lung disease such as thesaurosis, a condition that arises out of the body storing up excessive amounts of a normal or foreign substance in the lungs, with PVP being discovered in lesions in the lungs and lymph nodes. 

Amines such as paraphenylenediamine and ethylenediamine used in cosmetics and hair dye industries can cause occupational asthma.

Some Synthetic musks can also promote asthma and accumulate in breast milk.

Many other chemicals such as acetaldehyde, acetic acid, acrylates, aluminium powder, ammonia, benzoates, bisulphites, chlorhexident, ethanolamines, fragrance materials, propane and quaternary ammonium compounds.

Take Home Message

If you suffer from asthma check the chemicals in your hairsprays, mousses and other setting agents. They may be aggravating your condition.

Don't ignore any kind of skin reaction to a personal care product, however small. Stop using the product immediately. Be aware that what appears at first to be a minor reaction can become more severe with continued use of the product.

Hair dyes are the most common causes of skin reactions. If you dye your own hair seek out natural dyes, always perform a patch test for any allergic reaction before dyeing your hair and check the dyes your hairdresser uses.

Toxic Beauty - Dawn Mellowship  

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