Lords Debate Health Risk of para-Phenylenediamine in Hair Dye

The House of Lords recently conducted a debate on the health risks of para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye to raise awareness of the known health issues associated with the chemical, and to ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State what steps were being taken by the Government to warn consumers in the UK of its potential risks.  

The debate on the health risks of para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye was led by Baroness Taylor of Bolton, who brought to the House´s attention research published in the British Medical Journal that indicated the frequency of allergic reactions to para-Phenylensiamine (PPD) was increasing and accounted for at least 8 per cent of all allergic reactions treated in hospitals.

Although not advocating the banning of para-Phenylenediamine in hair dye, the Baroness advised the house that the National Hairdressing Federation had several years ago called a conference of all the main colour houses and those bodies which produce hair dye products containing para-Phenylensiamine in the hope of getting better regulation, better advice and more awareness. However nothing ever came of it.

Advocating that a skin patch test should be conducted every three to six months even if the product being used was not changed, the Baroness called on the Government to introduce measures to improve the labelling on hair products containing para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye to advise people on how to use the product safely and with minimum risk to health. Baroness Taylor was supported by Baroness Randerson who asked if the Government kept their own records of people who had suffered an injury due to para-Phenylenediamine in hair dye.

In response to the questions directed at the Government, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills -Baroness Wilcox – replied that the labelling of para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye was regulated by the European cosmetic products directive, which was implemented into UK law as the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008. Baroness Wilcox added that “the evidence that we [the British Government] have is that the incidence of allergic reactions from hair colorants is 0.3 to 4.3 in every million products sold”.

Baroness Wilcox also claimed that the UK industry’s trade association, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, produced very helpful fact sheets on para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye and that as PPD was not known to accumulate in the human body, consumers could use the same product for many years and still develop an allergic reaction. She concluded “We encourage the use of the patch test but will take away from this debate that maybe we are not looking at the issue hard enough at the moment”.

Para-Phenylensiamine in hair dye is believed to be responsible for the death of Tabatha McCourt in October last year and also the cause of mother-of-two Julia McCabe´s lapse into a coma due to an adverse reaction to hair dye containing para-Phenylensiamine.