Ground-level ozone can cause respiratory problems, and it has been associated with increased mortality. Having greasy hair could reduce your ozone exposure.
However, unwashed hair samples did produce more secondary-reaction products created from the interaction between ozone and hair oil.
My first thought when reading this article was, “Is there even ONE good reason for clogging up the information highway with this kind of nonsense?”
Well. Since no one was around to answer me, I decided to do some digging, and will share my findings with all you loyal readers who deserve to know the answer to this pressing question, and perhaps -- at least partially -- restore your faith in the mental faculties of our educated scholars.
Turns out this research may not be the result of an LSD experiment gone wrong after all.
(On a side note, if you don’t have much hair, like me, then this is not a big deal. But I will start some investigational ADULT stem cell topical therapy soon, and there is a 90 percent chance I will have a full head of hair in one year -- so at that time I’ll be paying more attention to my hair care. Dr. Phil starts it this week.)
Personal Care Products and Indoor Air Pollution
After unearthing some information about the author of this study, Associate Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Glenn C. Morrison, I found that this is merely a small part of a much larger investigation into the physics and chemistry of indoor air pollution -- something that does concern us all, more so than deciding whether or not washing our hair will affect our lifespan to any measurable degree.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, on average. So, considering the fact that you spend about 90 percent of your life indoors, the study of indoor pollution is a worthy one.
Their main aim is to determine what kinds of chemical pollutants are created indoors, and how they accumulate in indoor environments. Related projects include “secondary pollutant emissions in homes,“ and “pollutant transport to indoor surfaces,” for example.
“Since proximity to a pollutant source is as important at the source strength, we have begun evaluating pollutant dynamics and chemistry in the region around the human body, specifically the head region.
“We have learned that ozone flux to human hair is very fast, and that ozone reactions with human sebum will be responsible for lower ozone exposure, but also responsible for higher exposure to oxidation products such as aldehydes and ketones.”
Aha, here’s where it actually gets interesting, albeit meandering, so stay with me.
They found that dirty hair absorbs seven times the amount of ozone -- a respiratory irritant -- compared to clean hair.
This means, when you let your hair go to funk, you inhale one-seventh the amount of ozone as your squeaky clean neighbor (since your hair absorbed more of it).
But, the ozone level is only lowered because of the chemical reactions that take place with the squalene in your skin, AND while ozone levels are lowered, secondary chemical reactions create yet another nasty byproduct: 4-oxopentanal, which is a different respiratory irritant.
Are you still with me?
To recap the finding, grungy hair does NOT necessarily mean healthier air around your head, due to the secondary byproduct being produced, and Glenn Morrison states that this finding, in and of itself, may not mean anything.
But, in another published study, “Personal reactive clouds: Introducing the concept of near-head chemistry,” co-authored by Morrison, they found that ozone reactions with certain chemicals contained in personal care products can lead to elevated, and potentially harmful levels of ozonides, which rapidly decompose into carbonyl compounds such as aldehydes and ketones.
In plain English, your personal care products can spell double-trouble for your health.
First, by being absorbed into your skin -- which I’ve written about before -- and as described here, through the process of chemical reactions with your skin and hair. Hence the reason for this grungy hair study.
Morrison underscores just how little we know about ozone -- that unstable oxygen molecule (O3) that oxidizes anything it bumps into -- and how we may be exposed to unknown toxins simply because we don’t understand how it reacts with our body chemistry.
What Health Concerns ARE Implicated by This Study?
In conclusion, this “nonsensical” study actually points out two important areas of potential health hazards, due to the secondary chemical reactions that occur with ozone.
First, personal care products that are sprayed or applied to your skin (such as lotions, hair spray and perfume) can cause secondary chemical reactions, causing you to be exposed to high levels of potentially dangerous compounds.
And second, it also points out yet another reason for avoiding ozone generators and ionic air filters in your home.
Although ozone generators work for removing odors, killing mold and mildew, it can also kill small animals with enough exposure. And what this research tells us is that there may be many more secondary reactions that we’re just not familiar with yet that can harm your health.
To wrap this up, I recommend you review the related articles below about BAU Biologie & Ecology for more information on how to improve everything from your indoor air quality, to the health of your entire home.