The clouds of vapor in Katrina Randolph’s salon that lingered after she and her stylists worked on customers’ hair in tight quarters all day made her uneasy.

“I knew we were inhaling everything that we’re using during the day,” Randolph, owner of Tré Shadez Hair Studio in Capitol Heights, Maryland, told EHN. “Even when we would turn on the vent, or the AC, it wouldn’t calm it totally down.”

After looking into the health effects of common chemicals in salon products, she upgraded her salon’s ventilation system and started making hair oils out of essential oils.

“There’s definitely not enough information out there for us” to stay safe, she said. Randolph is one of almost two dozen Maryland hairdressers who took part in a recent pilot study looking at phthalate exposure for hairdressers. The study, published last month in Environmental Science and Technology, found that levels of metabolites—substances formed from the breakdown of chemicals—for one kind of phthalate were 10 times higher amongst Black and Latinx hairstylists than in Black and Latinx office workers.

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Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/flickr