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Monday, February 23, 2015

March 1979 Washington Post: “Some Hair Dryers Give Off Asbestos”

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Last month, my circa 1980 hand-held hair dryer finally gave out. It was a Christmas present during my first year in college. The motor on the cream-colored Conair didn’t exactly fail, but I had to jiggle the electrical cord in just the right way or it wouldn’t turn on. I bought a new one, and my old one went into the garbage can. But after reading a paper in the latest issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH), I sort of wish I’d kept it. I knew I had an appliance relic on my hands, but now I’m curious to know whether it contained asbestos.

James Dahlgren, MD and Patrick Talbott published in IJOEH a case report of a 51 year-old former hairdresser from the US who died from peritoneal mesothelioma. This rare form of cancer is caused by asbestos exposure. She worked as a hairdresser in New York from 1976 to 1992 and reported using  a hair dryer everyday on her clients.

“The patient used a blow dryer 1-2 feet away from her face, close enough to feel the expulsion of hot air from the dryer.  She reported that the air was strong enough to blow her hair and bangs away from her face.”

When she chose a career as a cosmetologist, she likely didn’t know she’d be exposed to asbestos. Dahlgren and Talbott indicate that from 1976 to 1982, she only used hairdryers that contained asbestos (and were manufactured by...

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