Thesaurosis is a putative medical condition that may result from overexposure to very small particles of plastic found in hair sprays. The condition is also known as storage disease due to the apparent tendency of the plastic particles to become stored in the pulmonary system.
Further research in the 1960s found relatively little clinical basis for a distinct disease that could be labeled pulmonary thesaurosis. Histological studies showed features of the condition similar to those associated with other conditions, such as pneumonitis and sarcoidosis. In addition, cases diagnosed as pulmonary thesaurosis were often characterized by significantly different signs and symptoms. By the early 1970s, then, a number of medical professionals had begun to question the existence of pulmonary thesaurosis as a unique disease. Some suggested that the symptoms attributed to the disease were, in fact, caused by other diseases and disorders. This uncertainty led to articles in the professional literature with titles such as “Thesaurosis: Illness or Illusion?” and “Thesaurosis—from Hairspray Exposure—a Nondisease.” In December 1963, the Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Great Britain (SCC) issued its own assessment of the thesaurosis controversies. It said that “Surveys of personnel in hairdressing establishments both here and abroad, have failed to reveal evidence of lung disease resulting from the use of hair sprays. To date there is no valid evidence of pulmonary storage of hair spray materials in man. Accordingly the term ‘hair spray thesaurosis’ can no longer be regarded as a valid description of the published clinical cases.” Other summaries of the research have come to similar conclusions.
SCC and other groups have based their conclusions primarily on two lines of evidence. First, the clinical conditions associated with thesaurosis by many researchers appear to be similar to those of sarcoidosis, suggesting that some factor other than hair spray use may be responsible for the conditions originally associated with plastic components of hair spray. Second, experiments with nonhuman animals in which hair spray components are intentionally introduced into the animals lungs fail to produce the symptoms or clinical features of thesaurosis supposedly associated with the condition. As a consequence, one of the most recent reviews of pulmonary thesaurosis came to the conclusion that the potential health hazard of aerosol cosmetics could not be determined.
See also Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ; Occupational Safety and Health Administration .
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Doyon, Suzanne. “Hairdressers and Cosmetologists.” In Michael Greenberg, Richard Hamilton, Scott Phillips, and Gayla J. McCluskey, eds. Occupational, Industrial, and Environmental Toxicology, 2nd ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2003.
Bergmann, Martin. “Thesaurosis: Illness or Illusion?.” Chest 64, 2. (1973): 153–54.
Kesavachandran, C., et al. “A Study of the Prevalence of Respiratory Morbidity and Ventilatory Obstruction in Beauty Parlour Workers.” Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 10, 1. (2006): 28–31.
Renzetti, A. D., Jr., et al. “Thesaurosis—from Hairspray Exposure—a Nondisease. Validation Studies of an Epidemiologic Survey of Cosmetologists.” Environmental Research 22, 1. (1980): 130–8.
Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Great Britain. “Report on the Present Position Regarding the Toxicology of Hair Sprays.” Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists 15. (1964): 45–50.
David E. Newton, EdD