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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Hairdressers' chemical risk alert
Hairdressing can involve working with dangerous dyes and chemicals
Hairdressers have been warned they are at risk of developing skin diseases from working with harmful chemicals.

The Health and Safety Executive said many were unaware of the potential dangers they face at work.

It estimates there are more cases of dermatitiis than in any other occupational group.

The HSE has launched a website where a wide range of businesses can obtain advice on the potential dangers of the chemicals they work with.

This website will help people understand that the chemicals in the products they are using might be having a lasting adverse effect on their health
Sandra Caldwell, Health & Safety Executive
Hairdressing has been the fastest growing occupation in the UK over the last ten years.

The HSE described the evidence that contact dermatitis, an allergic skin reaction, is caused by exposure to hairdressing chemicals and practices as "overwhelming".

But the HSE said that because many are small businesses and do not have access to occupational health services, the numbers affected by exposure to dangerous chemicals may be underestimated,

'No access'

The website, developed by the HSE in conjunction with local authorities, will also offer advice to a range of professions from beauticians to tattooists, florists, embalmers and indoor go-karting arena workers.

A spokesman said that without the required protective equipment, people could be exposing themselves to chemicals which caused serious skin problems.

She told BBC News Online that most salons were not part of big chains and had no access to the kind of advice they needed.

"This site means hairdressers can look on a bottle of hair dye, they can put the name of the chemical into the system, and find out what it is, and what the risks associated with it are.

"Then, if they are concerned, they can talk to the local authority."

Sandra Caldwell, of the HSE, said: "This website will help people understand that the chemicals in the products they are using, such as hair dyes and cleaning fluids, might be having a lasting adverse effect on their health.

"It also explains in a very simple way what they can do to protect themselves and their employees."

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