Is dyeing hair dangerous

01:00 Mon 22nd Apr 2002 |

asks Ursula:
It could be. Very recently it has emerged that the colouring used on certain hair dyes may cause cancer.

Q. Which dyes
The dyes that have scientists particularly worried are dark-coloured, permanent dyes that are used every four to six weeks. There are particular concerns about two chemical ingredients - para-phenylenediamine and tetrahydro-6-nitroquinoxaline. Both chemicals have been shown to damage the body's genetic material, and to cause cancer in animals.

Last year, scientists at the University of Southern California studied 1,500 people with bladder cancer. They found that women who used permanent hair dyes at least once a month were two to three times more likely to develop bladder cancer.

And hairdressers who have been in the business for more than ten years were five times more at risk. The cancer-causing chemicals are easily absorbed through the skin.

Q. Are semi-permanent dyes risky, too
The study found no link between cancer and semi-permanent and temporary hair dyes.

Q. What's being done about it
The problems came to light when the Scientific Committee on Cosmetic and Non-food Products intended for Consumers (a European commission watchdog) ordered hair-dye manufacturers to provide evidence that all the chemicals found in products had been properly tested and were safe.

However, there was nothing to rule out a link between permanent hair dye and bladder cancer.

The commission has now issued a report admitting it can no longer advise consumers that using the dye is risk free. It has criticised the hair dye industry because it failed to provide evidence that its products were safe.

Q. Should we stop using permanent hair dyes
There is conflicting advice.

Only people who have been using permanent hair dyes regularly for years are at risk.

A spokesperson for the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association said that twice as many men as women contracted bladder cancer, and that's not what you'd expect if hair dye was a significant risk.

However, the Cancer Research Society has advised consumers not to use the products until further research has been completed.

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