Occupational Exposures to Phthalates among Black and Latina U.S. Hairdressers Serving an Ethnically Diverse Clientele: A Pilot Study

Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Jun 15;55(12):8128-8138. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00427. Epub 2021 Jun 2.


Hairdressers may be differentially exposed to phthalates through hair salon services provided and products used, yet no U.S. studies have investigated these exposures in this population. We characterized concentrations and exposure determinants to nine phthalate metabolites in postshift urine samples among 23 hairdressers from three Black and three Dominican salons, as well as a comparison group of 17 female office workers from the Maryland/Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Overall, hairdressers had higher metabolite concentrations than office workers. The geometric mean (GM) for monoethyl phthalate (MEP) was 10 times higher in hairdressers (161.4 ng/mL) than office workers (15.3 ng/mL). Hairdressers providing select services and using certain products had higher GM MEP concentrations than those who did not: permanent waves/texturizing (200.2 vs 115.4 ng/mL), chemical straightening/relaxing (181.6 vs 92.1 ng/mL), bleaching (182.3 vs 71.6 ng/mL), permanent hair color (171.9 vs 83.2 ng/mL), and Brazilian blowout/keratin treatments (181.4 vs 134.6 ng/mL). Interestingly, hairdressers providing natural services had lower GM MEP concentrations than those who did not: twists (129.1 vs 215.8 ng/mL), sister locs/locs (86.0 vs 241.9 ng/mL), and afros (94.7 vs 203.9 ng/mL). Larger studies are warranted to confirm our findings and identify disparities in occupational phthalate exposures.

Keywords: Black; Latina; endocrine disruptors; hairdressers; occupational exposure; personal care products; phthalates; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Brazil
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Maryland
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Phthalic Acids*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Washington


  • Phthalic Acids
  • phthalic acid