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Vinyl Chloride: Hair Spray

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The chemical industry heavily promoted vinyl chloride as a propellant in aerosol cans throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. Yet as early as 1964, Aerosol Age, a trade magazine, reported that vinyl chloride in the air could reach very high levels in beauty parlors where hair spray was used- levels that would later be judged by vinyl chloride makers themselves to exceed the dose found to cause cancer in chemical plant workers. (view entire document) By 1969, B.F. Goodrich reported in an internal industry memo that: "People in the cosmetics trade have [become] concerned about the possible toxicity of these propellants." (view entire document)

With good reason. By that time vinyl chloride producers knew that beauticians could easily get a huge dose of vinyl in the course of an average workday. The 1969 B.F. Goodrich memo, after reviewing the evidence, concludes: "Beauty operators may be exposed to concentrations of [VCM] equal to or greater than the level" for chemical plant employees. (view entire document)

By 1971 the industry knew without doubt that vinyl chloride caused cancer in animals. (view entire document) A year later, the company acknowledged internally that beauty operators could be at greater cancer risk than chemical workers. (view entire document) In 1973 the predecessor of the Chemical Manufacturers Association was still advising VCM manufacturers to publicly make "no reference . . . to the question of carcinogensis." (view entire document)

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last updated: march.27.2009

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