Is your wig making you sick?

According to one study out of Nigeria, it might be

A team of researchers from the Department of Biotechnology at the Federal University of Technology in Nigeria has found that synthetic hair made in Nigeria, China, Ghana, and the US contains high levels of heavy metals and pesticides. These include silver, cadmium, chromium, Nickel, Vanadium and lead. 

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health, found that synthetic hair made from plastic contained significant levels of heavy metals that are harmful to humans. Manufacturers often use these to “stabilise” the wigs, a practice that the study emphasises needs to be addressed.  An example is lead compounds, which prevent heat, light, or wear and tear from breaking down PVC. They are often used in synthetic hair and make it easier for the wigs to form into shape.💀The metals used to stabilise the polymer are not bound to it. They can leach out over time or when exposed to light, so when women wear synthetic hair, whether as attachments, weaves, or wigs, on their heads or as fake eyelashes, they risk exposure to lead and other heavy metals.

PVC, which can be found anywhere from clothes to hosepipes, should also be a concern for people wearing wigs. It is part of the much larger problem of microplastics, which are tiny plastic bits from the breakdown of larger plastics or pollution from factories which can have catastrophic effects on plants, wildlife and even us. For example:

  • Scientists have found microplastics in human penises for the first time. Speaking to CNN, Ranjith Ramasamy, an expert in reproductive urology, conducted the research using evidence from prior research that found microplastics in the human heart. The men sampled all reported erectile dysfunction (ED), and Ramasamy said that more work needed to be done to determine if the ED was linked to microplastics. 
  • In March, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that microplastics had been found in human arteries and that humans with these plastics were five times more likely to suffer from strokes and heart attacks. 

Exposure to heavy metals and the amounts of pesticides found in synthetic hair has been linked with various diseases in people, such as kidney, liver and lung damage and certain types of cancers.
But what solutions are available? The researchers call on manufacturers, particularly in Nigeria, to consider using “high-quality synthetic fibres such as hiperlon instead of plastic fibres.” Then there are plant-based alternatives. As noted by the founder of Rebundle, Ciara Imani May, sustainable products tackle the scalp irritation often associated with synthetic hair and the ever-increasing plastic pollution problem. “We wear it, we toss it out, we get it redone, and we go on about our lives, but the need for more sustainable options has been apparent for some time,” May told The Cut last year. Beauty doesn’t have to be deadly!