Microbiome alterations from volatile organic compounds (VOC) exposures among workers in salons primarily serving women of color

Kathryn R. Dalton, Lydia M. Louis, Magdalena Fandiño-Del-Rio, Ana M. Rule, Walkiria Pool, Katrina Randolph, Stephen Thomas, Meghan F. Davis, Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Salon workers, especially those serving an ethnically and racially diverse clientele (i.e., Black/Latina), may experience disparately high levels of workplace exposures to respiratory irritants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Salon workers are also reported to have a greater risk of developing respiratory conditions compared to the general population. Emerging evidence suggests that occupational chemical exposures may alter the human microbiome and that these alterations may be an important mechanism by which workplace VOC exposures adversely impact respiratory health. This preliminary research investigated the potential effects of 28 VOC urinary biomarkers on the 16S rRNA nasal microbiome in 40 workers from salons primarily serving women of color (Black and Dominican salons) compared to office workers. Our exploratory analysis revealed significant differences in microbial composition by worker group; namely dissimilar levels of Staphylococcus species (S. epidermidis and S. aureus, specifically) in salon workers compared to office workers, and higher alpha diversity levels in workers in Dominican salons compared to workers in Black salons. Within-sample alpha diversity levels tended to be decreased with higher VOC urinary biomarker concentrations, significantly for carbon disulfide, acrolein, acrylonitrile, crotonaldehyde, and vinyl chloride biomarkers. Our research highlights that occupational exposures, particularly to chemicals like VOCs, can impact the respiratory microbiome in the vulnerable salon worker group. Further understanding of the potential effects of chemical mixtures on microbial composition may provide key insights to respiratory health and other adverse health outcomes, as well as direct prevention efforts in this largely historically understudied occupational population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114125
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Minority workers
  • Nasal microbiome
  • Occupational exposures
  • Salon workers
  • Volatile organic compounds biomarkers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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