Hair product safety could depend on where you live

September 22, 2023 – Hair products sold in neighborhoods that are poorer or that have a higher percentage of residents of color were more likely to contain higher levels of hazardous chemicals than products sold in predominantly white and affluent areas, according to a study from researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, published September 13 in Environmental Health Perspectives, was led by Marissa Chan, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Health. Other Harvard Chan School co-authors included Shivani Parikh, Derek Shyr, Gary Adamkiewicz, and Tamarra James-Todd.

The researchers looked at more than 14,000 shampoos, conditioners, and relaxers sold in 50 stores in eight Boston neighborhoods, identifying each product’s hazard score according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. They found that 12.2% of hair products available in Roxbury, a lower-income community of color, and 11.4% of hair products available in Mission Hill, a lower-income community, had high hazard scores. But in Beacon Hill, a more affluent neighborhood with more white residents, 7.9% had high hazard scores.

Interviewed in a September 13 segment on WCVB Boston, Chan said that personal care products are notable sources of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which have been found to interfere with the body’s hormone system and have been linked with reproductive health issues such as early menstruation, breast cancer, and pregnancy problems.

Watch or read the WCVB story: Hair product safety linked to neighborhood, race, Boston scientists say

Learn more

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When beauty causes harm (Harvard Chan School news)