When people hear the phrase “occupational asbestos exposure” they tend to immediately think of industries such as construction work, factory work, mining and manufacturing. Unfortunately, the list of at-risk occupations seems to be in a state of constant flux and expansion. A study centered on a new occupation has uncovered some devastating information.

Products meant to protect users – consumers and workers alike – from fire and extreme heat utilized the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos. Asbestos fibers were often mixed with other materials increase a product’s heat-resistant properties. From mechanics working on brake linings to a homeowner renovating old basement tile, countless people are at risk for breathing in asbestos fibers that have been expelled from the broken and deteriorating products. A new occupation is highlighted in a recent study – hairdressers.

In a study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, hairstylists are at considerable risk for developing peritoneal mesothelioma. The study examined the case history of a hairdresser who was diagnosed in 2004 and passed away following treatment in 2006. The study looked closely at her work habits as she had worked in cosmetology and makeup artistry from 1976 to 1992. Often working eight- to 14-hour workdays, she generally held a hairdryer close to her face.

Based on this work history and the ultimate diagnosis, the study concluded that it was likely that the air blew loose asbestos fibers out of the hair dryer only to be inhaled or ingested by the worker. The woman, the study said, likely had no idea of the danger she faced for 16 years.

The study acknowledged that there was a recall on many styles of hair dryers in 1979. Even so, countless hairstylists used asbestos-contaminated products for several years. At the time of the article’s publication, there were 30 reported cases of hairdressers developing mesothelioma between 2000 and 2009.