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As we all know, hair salons are filled with just as many smells as products and styling tools that are used on patrons to get their sought after style. From the chemical-filled scent of a fresh perm or the singed aroma of hot combs and hooded dryers, it’s quite recognizable for those that keep weekly or bi-weekly standing appointments.

However, those same smells we’ve become accustomed to might cause cancer. According to a new study conducted by Brandeis students, in which they teamed up with scientists to conduct an air quality test on salons, 70% of them didn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits and also aren’t being properly ventilated. All of the salons showed increased levels of benzene above the EPA’s carcinogenic target risk levels. In addition, carbon dioxide levels were also over recommended limits.

While newly conducted, this study isn’t the first of its kind with various reports of traditional black hairstyling being deemed toxic to our health. Not to mention, black hair products are known for being more toxic than general haircare products, but there’s been little to no attention on black salons. However, while the levels are high, there have yet to be any research done testing the long term effects on not only patrons but stylists who work in the environment for extended periods.

“Overall, there is a lack of research into environments where workers are primarily women of color,” said study leader and Brandeis professor Laura J. Goldin. “We already have joined in collaborative grant proposals with a number of research- and community-based organizations to pursue further research into air quality in black hair salons. Our study provided critical data to support additional investigation.”

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