The hair products that African-American women and children use mainly contain a lot of dangerous chemicals, according to a study.
The results would explain at least in part why African-Americans reach puberty earlier and have higher rates of asthma and reproductive diseases than other groups.
“The really dangerous thing is that women are exposed to these chemicals every week and, sometimes, every day, without knowing it, because they assume that a product is safe simply because it is for sale,” said epidemiologist Tamarra James-Todd. after reviewing the study published in Environmental Research.
James-Todd, a professor at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Harvard, Boston, provided information on the products studied, but did not participate in the research.
The authors evaluated 18 hair products, from treatments with hot oil to antifrizz creams, smoothing and conditioning, to detect the presence of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. These substances, which interfere with hormonal production, are associated with reproductive disorders, congenital malformations, asthma and cancer.
The team analyzed 66 of those disruptors: each product evaluated contained between four and 30, said lead author Jessica Helm, a researcher at the Silent Spring Institute, Newton, Massachusetts.
Eleven products contained chemicals banned in the European Union or identified as a potential problem in California. The two products on sale for children contained the highest levels of banned or regulated chemicals, Helm explained.
84 percent of the chemicals discovered in the hair products did not appear on the labels.
“It is known that the United States is working badly in the evaluation and regulation of chemical substances,” said Helm. Companies can omit the chemicals from the labels if they are fragrances and are considered secret ingredients in the product formula.
“We are protecting companies ‘right to privacy more than consumers’ health, which is negative and can be especially dangerous for the high-risk and vulnerable population,” said James-Todd.
Previous studies have shown that African-Americans use more hair products than other women and suffer disproportionately from uterine fibroids, precocious puberty and infertility, Helm explained. In addition, the rate of endometrial and breast cancer is increasing.
The study does not prove that the presence of endocrine disruptors in hair products causes these or other problems, but points to them as a potential source, Helm said.
With information from Agencies