Julie McCabe hair dye death sparks black henna tattoo warning

Julie McCabe Julie McCabe was taken to hospital struggling to breathe after dyeing her hair at home

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A coroner has warned about the dangers of having black henna tattoos and using hair dye after the death of a woman who suffered an allergic reaction.

Julie McCabe, 38, of Keighley, died in 2012, a year after suffering an allergic reaction to her L'Oreal dye.

An inquest heard she had a black henna tattoo in 2007 and her reactions to her hair dye increased after this.

Returning an accidental death verdict, coroner Geoff Fell said he wanted to raise public awareness of this danger.

Black henna is illegal within the EU as it contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause lasting damage to the skin. Mrs McCabe got her tattoo in Dubai.

Mr Fell heard expert evidence that said the tattoos contained massive amounts of PPD - the chemical also used in the hair dye thought to have caused Mrs McCabe's reaction - and that the tattoos increased susceptibility.

He said he would be writing to the government's Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to ask it to look into how the industry collected data on the problem.

He also called on the cosmetics industry to do more to find out how many customers have adverse reactions to their hair dyes, saying it had "grossly under-estimated" the scale of the issue.

More research needed

The coroner said: "People think it's a good idea to let their children have a black henna tattoo.

"That child could go through life 10, 15, 30 years and the first time that child dyes its hair there could be an anaphylactic reaction."

Mr Fell said cosmetic company L'Oreal did not encourage customers to report such problems to it and urged it to reconsider this position, and the industry as a whole to commission more research.

A L'Oreal spokesman said: "We welcome the coroner's recommendations and will work with the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association and the rest of the industry to look at ways to improve gathering of information.

"We fully support his decision to send a report to BIS highlighting his, and the industry's, concerns about black henna tattoos. We will support increased industry efforts to build awareness of the allergy risk black henna tattoos can cause."

The three-day inquest heard Mrs McCabe was a regular user of L'Oreal Recital Preference dye and between 2005 and 2011 she visited her GP up to 20 times to report rashes, itches and other problems.

But he said he was aware of only one other death in the UK due to an anaphylactic reaction to hair dye.

'Devastating consequences'

After the inquest, Mrs McCabe's husband Russell said: "Julie was a wonderful wife and fantastic mother to our two children. We miss her every single day and her loss has torn our family apart.

"To lose any loved one is devastating enough but to lose someone in these circumstances at such a young age has been too much to bear."

Carol Hopwood, of the law firm Slater and Gordon, representing the family, said: "Mrs McCabe could never have expected that a routine part of her beauty regime would have such devastating consequences.

"This tragedy highlights how common products contain potentially lethal chemicals and illustrates how important it is that clear warnings are placed on packaging to alert customers of the risk of serious injury or even death from the use of these products."

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