(Health Secrets) Consumers in the U.K. have been advised to stop using hair dyes after a European Commission watchdog group failed to give its support for the products. Hair dyes have recently been linked to bladder cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, and the commission made its ruling based on lack of data substantiating their safety. Of particular concern to the watchdog group are the dark color permanent dyes used every four to six weeks.
With aging populations, hair dye use has been substantial in the U.S. and Europe. It is estimated that more than one-third of women over age 18 and about 10 percent of men over age 40 use some type of hair dye.
Hair dyes are classified as permanent (or oxidative), semi-permanent, and temporary. Permanent hair dyes make up about 80 percent of currently marketed products and consist of colorless dye intermediates, (chemicals called aromatic amines) and dye couplers. In the presence of hydrogen peroxide, the intermediates and couplers react with each other to form pigment molecules. Darker colors are formed by using higher concentrations of intermediates. Semi-permanent and temporary hair dyes are not oxidative and include colored compounds that stain hair directly.
More than 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products.
The watchdog group’s decision came after research indicated that monthly users more than double their risk of bladder cancer. These results led to the European Commission’s asking manufacturers for details of safety tests.
Dr. Ian White, chairman of the Scientific Committee on Cosmetic and Non-Food Products and consultant dermatologist at St Thomas’ Hospital in London said in an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, “They have not provided ample information that the dye is safe. Isn’t it amazing that a product should have such side gaps in its toxicological requirements but be on sale.”
Scientists are especially worried about the long-term effects of para-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a compound used in dark color hair dyes. There are indications from experiments in rats that PPD may be carcinogenic upon long-term application with hydrogen peroxide.
The Daily Mail also reported that research in Sweden indicates that chemicals found in hair coloring products may damage the immune system, triggering rheumatoid arthritis.
In California, a study of 1,500 people with bladder cancer found women who used permanent hair dye once a month were twice as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.
Hair dye not only changes the color of hair, it is absorbed directly through the scalp into the bloodstream, where it is distributed throughout all cells in the body.
The following hair dye statistics, though not the result of a controlled scientific study, are based on years of following real people:
*Women who use permanent hair dyes monthly for 15 or more years have a 300% greater risk of bladder cancer compared to those who don’t use dye.
*Hairdressers who are colorists for at least 10 years have more than 5 times the risk of bladder cancer as those who don’t color hair.
*Hair dyes are implicated in certain blood cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
*No increased risk has been seen in women who use only semi-permanent dyes or temporary rinses.
The European Union now requires disclosure of the chemicals and potential risks in hair dyes. The U.S. has no such requirements for disclosure.
There are safe says to color your hair
The least toxic coloring option is an organic henna and plant formula. These products have come a long way and can actually improve the condition of hair and look very natural. However, they cannot dramatically change the color of your own hair.
The next best alternative is to find a semi-permanent or temporary color that has low or no levels of ammonia or hydrogen peroxide.
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