Respiratory toxicity of persulphate salts and their adverse effects on airways in hairdressers: a systematic review

Jelena Macan, Željka Babić, Sarah Hallmann, Martin S Havmose, Jeanne D Johansen, Swen M John, Marija Macan, Cara Symanzik, Wolfgang Uter, Patricia Weinert, Henk F van der Molen, Sanja Kezic, Rajka Turk


OBJECTIVE: To review the literature on respiratory effects of persulfate salts (PS) or hair bleaches in hairdressers and animal models exploring mechanisms behind PS-induced asthma.

METHODS: A systematic review according to the PRISMA guidelines was performed. Studies published from 2000 to July 2021 that fulfilled predefined eligibility criteria were retrieved. Data were not quantitatively synthesized due to the heterogeneity of study designs, outcomes and methods.

RESULTS: Forty-two articles were included. PS are indicated as the main cause of occupational rhinitis and asthma in hairdressers, and one of the leading causes of occupational asthma in some European countries. Bleaching products are indicated as the most important factor for development of respiratory symptoms, lung function decline, and leaving the hairdressing profession. Risk estimates from a good quality prospective study showed up to 3.9 times higher risk for wheezing and breathlessness in hairdressers aged ≥ 40 years than in matched controls, and 20 times higher risk in hairdressers to develop respiratory symptoms from exposure to bleaching powder than controls. Pathophysiological mechanisms of the respiratory response to PS are not yet fully elucidated, but may include non-specific and specific immune responses.

CONCLUSIONS: Hairdressing is associated with a wide spectrum of respiratory adverse effects, of which bleaching products were indicated as the most hazardous. Preventive measures for reducing inhalatory exposure to PS in hair salons should be re-evaluated, including adopting occupational exposure limits at EU level, and encouraging use of safer bleach formulations.


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1679-1702
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Asthma/etiology
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases/chemically induced
  • Occupational Exposure/adverse effects
  • Powders/adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Salts/adverse effects


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