|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Howard Good question about temporary hair loss. Although you didn't mention to what extent these women had hair loss. Our bodies go through cycles of normal hair shedding. Actual hair loss to the point of baldness (whether a spot only or total) is called alopecia. Things that are known to cause alopecia include stress (including pregnancy), endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, Down's syndrome, and even infection. Also, rarely a medicine can cause hair loss. As far as occupational exposure, until recently there was thought NOT to be enviromentally related, but I did find an journal article out of Brazil (March 96 Int J Dermatol) that had noted a cluster of 7 workers in a paper factory that had had alopecia. These workers had a high level of acrylamide, which was a substance that they had misted on the paper material to reduce fungus and algae. Prior to that there has never been a suggestion of enviromental toxins causing alopecia. There has not been anything in the US suggesting "sick building syndrome" as a cause of hair loss. It may be coicidence that these 4 women had hair loss.
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