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Q. Dear Umbra,
I thank you for the wisdom your articles have given me. I've been very curious about the health risks imposed by my wife's hair coloring. She uses a common brand, and when she is dyeing her hair it smells horrible, and lingers in the air long after she's finished. The closest thing I could use to describe the smell would be old, rotten, fungus-filled fruit sacks. I am not concerned about being exposed, but my wife's health is extremely important to me. Is it safe for her? If not, do I have an alternative to suggest?
Very Concerned Husband
A. Dearest VCH,
If you are not a writer by trade, you should become one. Your description of “old, rotten, fungus-filled fruit sacks” is impressively detailed, inarguably repulsive, and, I imagine, at least as colorful as your wife’s tresses.
Have you told your wife how you feel about her stinking up Susanville in the name of beauty? Perhaps you could suggest that you’d prefer to see a few gray hairs spring forth than watch her breathe in a cocktail of toxic chemicals. Even better, tell her you adore the gray hair (or whatever she is trying to alter). I bet she would appreciate your candor and, more than that, your unconditional love. Sometimes that’s enough to get one through the day, isn’t it?
You might also gently tell her that hair dye has been fingered in a number of health concerns. We know it contains carcinogenic ingredients -- here’s a handy overview from the Food and Drug Administration -- but when you comb through the data you’ll see that the science is not absolutely sure about all the various connections. Over the years, studies have connected long-term hair dye exposure to increased risks of leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and bladder cancer. Women in their first trimester of pregnancy are encouraged to forgo it, just to be safe. Should we not apply the same precaution in all stages of life? I vote yes.