Ammonium, potassium, and sodium persulphates are inorganic salts are available in a supply chain. These substances as ingredients in hair products are used mainly as hair bleaching or hair lightening agents, thereby, helping to decolorize or lighten hair by oxidizing the colors present in the hair shaft. Ammonium persulphate is also used in the baking industry as bleaching agent.
The Hair Shaft
The hair shaft consists of three layers:
• The medulla – the deepest layer of the hair shaft, only seen in large and thick hairs.
• The cortex – the middle layer of the hair shaft which provides the strength, color and texture of a hair fiber.
• The cuticle – the outer layer of the hair shaft is thin and colorless.
These substances have oxidizing properties that could bleach the hairs. Professionals and experts did some reappraisal work on these compounds and concluded that the use of persulphates poses health risks to hairdressing professionals in beauty parlors and salons and consumers. These are sensitizing substances and have potential to cause allergic respiratory and skin reactions mainly through inhalation and skin absorption.
Recent action by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
On June 12, 2019, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in European Union (EU), recommended that exposure of professionals in hair dressing areas, hair dying, and the general public to these products containing persulphates be reduced to a minimum based on result finding and reappraisal. They have been classified as respiratory and skin sensitizers in the European Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation, and are the second leading cause of occupational asthma related to chemical exposure, after quaternary ammonium.
ANSES’s expert appraisal work, carried out as part of its mandate to implement the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation determined the risks for professionals and consumers associated with these sensitizing substances, and identified the management measures to be implemented.
Persulphate substances are used in different forms in hair bleaching products: powders to be mixed in a liquid, granules, creams, and ready-to-use liquids. Occupational exposure occurs by the respiratory and dermal routes, mainly during the preparation, application and rinsing of these products. Consumers can also be exposed, either when using bleaching products designed for home use or as hair salon customers.
The analysis of the scientific literature and vigilance data showed that the vast majority of cases of allergic reactions related to these substances are observed in the hairdressing sector.
These disorders can cause disabilities in daily life and have serious consequences for these professionals, such as the need to retrain for a different career. The profiles of ammonium persulfate from different manufactures are attached as references.
• ANSES recommends restricting persulphates in hair products URL at: https://www.anses.fr/en/content/anses-recommends-restricting-persulphates-hair-products
• Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) at:
1. Ammonium Persulfate at: http://www.nationaldiagnostics.com/msds_pdfs/sds_product10.php?cat_num=EC-504
2. Ammonium Persulfate at: https://beta-static.fishersci.com/content/dam/fishersci/en_US/documents/programs/education/regulatory-documents/sds/chemicals/chemicals-a/S25178.pdf.
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