Problem: After receiving several reports of occupational asthma among cosmetology professionals, we studied the prevalence, work-attributable risk, and tasks associated with asthma in this industry.
Methods: We selected a stratified random sample of cosmeticians, manicurists, barbers, and cosmetologists holding licenses in Colorado for a mail survey instrument.
Results: The prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma among the 1883 respondents (68% response rate) was 9.3%; of these, 67 (38%) developed asthma after entering the cosmetology profession. Multivariate analyses showed that hairstyling, application of artificial nails, and shaving and honing were significantly associated with asthma arising in the course of employment (P < 0.005) with relative risks of 2.6–2.9.
Conclusions: The increased risk of asthma with onset during employment among cosmetologists is probably attributable to their exposure to sensitizers and irritants in tasks demonstrated to be associated with asthma.