Ammonium, potassium and sodium persulphates are substances used for their oxidising properties, particularly in hair bleaching products. They have been classified as respiratory and skin sensitisers in the European CLP Regulation, and are the second leading cause of occupational asthma related to chemical exposure, after quaternary ammonium.
The Agency's expert appraisal work, carried out as part of its mandate to implement the REACh Regulation, determined the risks for professionals and consumers associated with these sensitising substances, and identified the management measures to be implemented.
Health risks for hairdressing professionals and consumers
The work carried out by ANSES has demonstrated health risks for hairdressing professionals and consumers when these substances are used as ingredients in hair products.
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. Indeed, more than 1000 cases of occupational diseases associated with persulphates were identified by the National Network for the Monitoring and Prevention of Occupational Diseases (RNV3P) between 2001 and 2015. They involve cases of asthma, allergic dermatitis, rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylactic shock and other respiratory diseases, and the vast majority of them concern hairdressers, a quarter of whom are young workers and apprentices. Data from other health agencies (in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark) confirm this finding.
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.
In view of these findings, ANSES recommends restricting the use of persulphates, particularly in hair products, as soon as possible in order to protect the health of exposed workers and consumers.