Asbestos and Hair Dryers

A recent comment posted under Hairdressers Die from Mesothelioma After Working in Salons for Years, was thought-provoking at best and disturbing at worst.

David Kemper, of Midland Dryer Services in the UK wrote:

Asbestos was used in salon hood hairdryers in the UK until 1992 by most hairdryer manufacturers including the top British, Dutch and German brands. I service salon hairdryers for a living and I still find asbestos regularly in hairdryers.

Whoa. What!?

We have revisited this issue once before in A Salon Blowout Please, But Hold the Asbestos, when it was reported that the majority of hair dryers tested emitted asbestos fiber levels comparable to or greater than those found in certain school buildings and near construction sites.

The Environmental Working Group reports that it is potentially still a problem, and the comment from Mr. Kemper, who works in the industry, confirms this.

Asbestos in blow dryers

Perhaps no consumer product better symbolizes the 1970s than the hand-held blow dryer. As it turns out, these hair dryers were not only puffing coifs, but also hurling asbestos fibers into the indoor environment. This extraordinary hazard was discovered entirely by accident, when a photographer using a blow dryer to dry negatives noticed tiny flecks of dust on his negatives. The revelation that this “dust” was actually asbestos led the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to pressure manufacturers to voluntarily stop using asbestos in all hair dryers, though it was never officially banned. CPSC described the risk at the time as less than “many” occupational asbestos exposures, but by implication, presumably greater than others:

“While the risk to an individual from the intermittent use of an asbestos-emitting hair dryer is less than that from many current occupational asbestos exposures, the large number of individuals that may be exposed clearly calls for the elimination of the exposure.”

Well, don’t most women use hairdryers every day?  That’s more than intermittent use.

Dr. Nicholson, an associate of Dr. Irving J. Selikoff at the Environmental Sciences Laboratory, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said in the CPSC report:

“It is clear that asbestos fibers are released during the operation of most hair dryers tested, in some cases in considerable quantities,” Dr. Nicholson reported. “The range of dryer effluent concentrations exceeds that of the other environmental concentrations and extends much beyond those of the ambient air.”

Dr. Nicholson added that “the fiber concentrations in the effluent of some dryers exceeded the highest we have measured in eight years of surveillance of environmental asbestos contamination.

So what’s the answer?

The CPSC says that as the result of negotiations between the Commission’s staff and 37 companies which share virtually 100 per cent of the market of hand-held hair dryers manufactured with asbestos, the firms have agreed to cease production and distribution of hair dryers containing asbestos. They also have agreed to offer consumers some form of repair, replacement or refund. The report is dated 1979 — which makes Mr. Kemper’s observations that much more disturbing.


  1. Jonathan Kemper says:

    “Perhaps no consumer product better symbolizes the 1970s than the hand-held blow dryer. As it turns out, these hair dryers were not only puffing coifs, but also hurling asbestos fibers into the indoor environment”

    The report into Asbestos in hair-dryers didnt cover hand-held devices. And from experience, hand held hair dryers in europe dont contain asbestos anyway, the element is wrapped around a mica former.

    The HSE report which was done in partnership with my father, who was also my employer until recently, was focused on the hooded hair dryers in hairdressing salons. And as such only recorded a very low amount of fibre being shed.

  2. So, what is the verdict? Is there asbestos in handheld blow dryers today? (Nov.2011) I have wondered about this for a long time and decided to try to find the answer but this site does not seem to offer a definitive one. Anyone?

  3. I have been searrched for an answer to this too. I understand they are not in European models but what about Made in China products, could some manufactureres in China still use asbestos in hair dryers?

  4. Can someone please help with this query, do any hand held dryers still contains asbestos today, manufactured in Asia etc, is this still a possible risk today?

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