OBJECTIVE To assess respiratory symptoms among hairdressers in Norway.
METHODS The study was based on a questionnaire sent to 100 hairdressers (91% responding) and 95 office workers (84% responding). The questionnaire sought information about allergy, respiratory symptoms in the past year, and symptoms after exposures to different types of pollutants, working conditions, and smoking habits. A population based control group was established because the hairdressers and office workers differed in age and smoking habits.
RESULTS The prevalence of respiratory symptoms in the past year did not differ significantly between hairdressers and office workers after adjusting for age, atopy, and smoking. The hairdressers over 40 years of age reported significantly more symptoms—such as wheezing and breathlessness—in the past year than the office workers of the same age. Compared with the population based control group, both hairdressers younger than 30 and those over 40 reported more symptoms—such as breathlessness in the past year. The oldest hairdressers reported such symptoms as wheezing and breathlessness more often than did the younger hairdressers. These differences in breathlessness were significant after adjusting for smoking and wheezing. The same trend was not found among the office workers. The hairdressers reported significantly more wheezing, breathlessness, runny eyes, and blocked or runny nose from exposure to hair dyes, permanent oils, bleaching powder, and other chemicals used in a hairdressing salon, compared with the office workers. Prevalence of symptoms during exposure to other types of generel pollutants was similar in the two groups.
CONCLUSIONS Hairdressers are exposed to low levels of various irritating chemicals every day. The prevalences of acute symptoms related to the exposure of hairdressers to hairdressing chemicals are very high. Hairdressers, especially the oldest hairdressers, have more asthma-like symptoms than the control groups.
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