Scientists in Boston, USA, have discovered that women who experience higher-than-average exposure to flame retardant chemicals are significantly more likely to be suffering from thyroid disease. And because certain hair loss conditions can be exacerbated by thyroid problems, the risk of thinning hair is most likely elevated, too.
Chemicals can lead to thyroid problems
In a new study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health, a team led by assistant professor Joseph Allen found that exposure to flame retardants could mean heightened levels of chemicals known as PBDEs in the blood. When this was evident, they found that women were significantly more likely than those with lower concentrations to have thyroid problems.
The authors state that fire retardants are “just about everywhere”. Furniture is often drenched in it before sale, and over time it is released into the environment. As the team point out, there has even been evidence of PBDEs found in the blood of polar bears.
“Previous research has shown that these chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue and interfere with hormonal functions, including interference with thyroid hormones,” they write.
The thyroid is an endocrine gland in the neck that is responsible for producing hormones that are necessary for growth and metabolism. Things go wrong when it produces either too many hormones (Hyperthyroidism) or too few (Hypothyroidism). Both can have an impact on hair loss.
With an underactive thyroid, hair can become thin and brittle – not just on the head but all over the body. Hyperthyroidism can be equally as damaging and can lead to thinning, especially on top of the scalp.
In both cases these thyroid conditions can lead to thinning hair all over the scalp caused by Telogen Effluvium or – should the shedding last for more than six months – from Chronic Telogen Effluvium, also known as ‘Diffuse Thinning’. Furthermore, some medication used to treat thyroid disorders may also cause hair loss as a side effect, at least for a few months while the body adjusts to the new treatment.
Effective hair loss treatments
Although hair loss brought on by thyroid illnesses or the medication used to treat them is generally temporary and should clear up by itself within between six to twelve months, there are treatments for telogen effluvium that can help to accelerate this regrowth process.
If you are experiencing more shedding than usual the best place to start is always with a visit to a specialist hair loss clinic so that a proper diagnosis can be made, as hair loss can be brought on by multiple factors.
It is also possible for more than one condition to be present simultaneously – for example, telogen effluvium is known to trigger or worsen male or female pattern hair loss in those who are already genetically predisposed to this hereditary condition. A dedicated hair loss specialist will be able to assess your pattern, level and stage of thinning and recommend a personalised treatment course, accordingly, tailored to your precise needs.
Unfortunately, while help may be at hand for hair loss conditions brought on by thyroid disorders, there is not really an awful lot that can be done to remove yourself entirely from the chemicals found in fire retardants.
Reporting on the Boston team’s findings, Reuters news agency added some thoughts from Heather Stapleton, an environmental health researcher at Duke University in North Carolina, who suggested that, “washing your hands before you eat is likely to reduce exposure (to PBDEs). It’s also suggested that cleaning and dusting practices, particularly wet dusting or mopping approaches to minimise resuspension of particles, can reduce exposure.”
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.