Shock­ing new study con­ducted among bar­bers finds blood on 42% of hair clip­pers, and traces of hep­ati­tis

CityPress - - Front Page - VUYO MKIZE vuyo.mkize@city­

It’s a hair­style pop­u­lar with many South Africans – easy on the pocket and def­i­nitely on main­te­nance. But the chiskop could cost you your health.

There is sig­nif­i­cant con­tam­i­na­tion of hair clip­pers with blood and blood-borne viruses – par­tic­u­larly hep­ati­tis B – ac­cord­ing to a study by re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town, pub­lished in this month’s edi­tion of the SA Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

In a re­cent sep­a­rate study, bleed­ing caused by the pop­u­lar clean-shave hair­cut was re­ported to be preva­lent – a wor­ri­some find­ing in a coun­try with 6.9 mil­lion peo­ple in­fected with HIV.

So sig­nif­i­cant is the con­tam­i­na­tion, that the lat­est study found that 42% of clip­pers col­lected from 50 bar­ber shops from town­ships in Cape Town tested pos­i­tive for blood.

And while the pres­ence of the HI virus was for­tu­nately not de­tected in these tests, at least 8% of the sam­ples came back with pos­i­tive mark­ers for hep­ati­tis B.

Hepap­ti­tis B is a se­ri­ous, but treat­able, liver dis­ease. While it mostly clears up on its own, it can lead to liver fail­ure if it be­comes chronic.

The re­searchers in­vited hair­dressers from the Langa, Gugulethu and Bon­te­heuwel town­ships in Cape Town to par­tic­i­pate, col­lect­ing one clip­per from each shop.

In areas with a pre­dom­i­nantly black African pop­u­la­tion, namely Langa and Gugulethu, the chiskop hair­cut was the style most re­quested, whereas in Bon­te­heuwel, clients mostly asked for brush cuts, blade-fades and Ger­man cuts.

While hair­style trends for men have changed over the years, from the “big Afros” of the 1960s and 1970s, to the blade-fade and Ger­man hair­cut that be­came pop­u­lar in the 1990s, the re­searchers con­tend that the cur­rent clean shave or chiskop be­came fash­ion­able at the turn of the cen­tury and is worn by at least 70% of black men in Cape Town town­ships.

“All the bar­bers cleaned the clip­pers af­ter each client, but the clean­ing agents var­ied. Most bar­bers (82%) used dis­in­fec­tant with methy­lated spir­its af­ter us­ing a brush to re­move hair, and 8% used an open flame,” re­searchers noted.

Even with the use of these meth­ods to dis­in­fect their equip­ment, their ef­fi­cacy couldn’t fully be de­ter­mined, as ethyl al­co­hol and methyl al­co­hol aren’t agents that de­stroy viruses, and there is no data on the ef­fi­cacy of an open flame or guide­lines about ad­e­quate ex­po­sure time.

“The chiskop is worn by the ma­jor­ity of black men in South Africa and the African di­as­pora. Be­sides be­ing a trend, this hair­cut is part of cer­tain cul­tural rit­u­als in var­i­ous African and In­dian tribes.

“The hair­cut is achieved ei­ther by us­ing a ra­zor blade or by press­ing the metal shears of an elec­tric clip­per di­rectly on to the scalp with­out us­ing the man­u­fac­turer-sup­plied plas­tic stages (combs),” they ex­plained.

An­other study found shaved pim­ples at the back of the scalp of cus­tomers whose hair had been cut with ra­zors and on those whose hair was cut with clip­pers.

In­vis­i­ble bleed­ing was re­cently de­tected in scalp swabs af­ter a der­ma­tol­o­gist ex­am­ined pro­fes­sional clean-shave hair­cuts.

A 2012 study in Ethiopia re­ported that shar­ing shav­ing equip­ment in bar­ber shops was com­mon prac­tice, and an ac­ci­den­tal scratch by sharp equip­ment could al­low HIV and other blood-borne pathogens to en­ter the body.

The re­searchers con­cluded: “This study con­firms that there is sig­nif­i­cant con­tam­i­na­tion of bar­ber hair clip­pers with blood and blood-borne viruses. Hep­ati­tis B was de­tected with enough DNA copies to pose a risk of trans­mit­ting in­fec­tion.

“Although HIV was not de­tected in this small study, the risk of trans­mis­sion should be quan­ti­fied. Fur­ther stud­ies to in­ves­ti­gate bar­ber clip­per ster­il­i­sa­tion prac­tices and whether the clean-shave hair­style is an in­de­pen­dent risk fac­tor for HIV, hep­ati­tis B and hep­ati­tis C virus in­fec­tions are war­ranted.”

In the mean­time, the re­searchers ad­vo­cate public ed­u­ca­tion to en­cour­age peo­ple to have their own hair clip­pers – as with tooth­brushes.


Will this study en­cour­age you to buy your own clip­pers or ditch the chiskop en­tirely? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word CHISKOP and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50


BE­WARE THE CHISKOP Most hair­dressers use methy­lated spir­its to dis­in­fect their clip­pers, and some an open flame, but the ef­fi­cacy of these meth­ods in killing viruses has not been de­ter­mined, say re­searchers

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