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Fast-changing life-styles and ecotoxicity of hair dyes drive the emergence of hidden toxicants threatening environmental sustainability in Asia

  • Mishra, Vandana1
  • Sharma, Udita1
  • Deepak Rawat1
  • Benson, David2
  • Singh, Mrinalini1
  • Sharma, Radhey Shyam1
Published Article
Environmental Research
Elsevier BV
Publication Date
May 16, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109253


The practice of hair dyeing is a rapidly expanding industry on a global scale; however, it has become a major concern for Asian countries because they have been undergoing rapid transformations of their environment and lifestyles. While the socio-economic benefits and impacts of this globalization trend are widely understood, the environmental effects are largely unknown. In particular, commonly available oxidative dyes potentially pose specific environmental risks due to their use of a toxic aromatic amine p-Phenylenediamine (PPD). In investigating the environmental impacts of PPD chemicals, we first provide context to the study by setting out the socio-psychological drivers to industrial expansion in Asian countries along with an overview of research into its effects, to show that its environmental impacts are under-researched. We then investigate the environmental toxicity of PPD by focusing on the role of microbes in metabolizing waste products. Results show that Acinetobacter baumannii EB1 isolated from dye effluent prevents autoxidation of PPD under oxygen-enriched (shaking) or oxygen-deficient (static) conditions representing different environmental settings. Microbes transformed PPD into more toxic metabolites, which then significantly reduced plant growth, thereby having a direct bearing on ecosystem services. Based on the findings, we argue that stricter regulatory controls on hair dye wastewater are necessary, particularly in newly industrialising Asian countries where the expansion of commercial practice is most prevalent.

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