In addition to removing unwanted hair, laser hair removal compromises indoor air quality and creates occupational risks for clinicians.
With well over a million procedures performed in the United States annually, laser hair removal is the third most performed non-invasive (does not break the skin) medical procedure.
Smooth, hairless skin is achieved by passing a laser over the treatment area, one that produces a powerful beam of light. Dark pigment in the hair absorbs intense heat from the light, significantly damaging the shafts. The extreme high temperature injures the follicles (without harming surrounding skin), impairing its ability to regrow. The damaged follicles later fall out. (1) This scenario plays out well for the patient. As for the clinician performing the laser hair removal? Not so much.
For hair elimination via laser to work effectively, thermal destruction of tissue (the smelly “burning hair” phase) must take place. This creates a smoke byproduct (2) commonly referred to as surgical plume; this plume has been found to contain numerous toxins and carcinogens.
Patients are exposed to this plume only at the time of treatment. Clinicians are exposed all day, every day they are scheduled to work.
Last year, The Journal Of The American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study on the harmful effects of smoke resulting from laser hair removal. The study determined that laser hair removal plume should be considered a biohazard (3) due to the numerous VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emitted during the laser hair removal process. The findings established specific health hazards from laser hair removal surgical smoke. (3)
Surgical plumes contain myriad compounds, many of which are harmful during exposure. Carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and a variety of trace toxic gases are just a few examples of toxins emitted from the procedure. (2) Of the 377 chemical compounds found in the JAMA study, 20 are known environmental toxins including toluene and benzene, two known carcinogens. (3)
The National Institutes of Health have deemed that acute exposure has been associated with decreased breathing function and heart rate, in addition to lung and upper respiratory inflammation. Some patients are at risk of myocardial infarctions. But in otherwise healthy patients, the likelihood of adverse health effects is low. Not so, however, for workers who spend hour after hour exposed to laser hair removal plume. For those workers, chronic exposure to laser hair removal emissions includes all the risks that patients face during a procedure (acute exposure), plus the risk of cardiopulmonary disease and cancer later on. (4) The occupational risks are serious.
Thankfully, the long-term outlook for laser hair removal workers is not bleak. The JAMA study findings indicate that environmental conditions for laser hair removal specialists can be improved with indoor air quality management.
NIH recommends that procedures never be done in spaces with inadequate ventilation and that personal protective gear be used continually. And, as with all plume inducing surgical procedures using lasers, smoke evacuation systems should be employed. (5)
At Air Systems Inc, we serve our customers in the laser hair removal industry by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems create clean air and a safe place to work. Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.