Nail salon workers suffer chemical exposures that can be like working at a garage or a refinery
Posted by admin on 21st November 2019

Anyone who has walked past a nail salon is familiar with the noxious odors that emanate from acrylic nails, polishes and removers. Customers getting manicures and pedicures endure the smell temporarily, but manicurists who inhale these evaporating chemicals for hours expose themselves to health risks.

The smells come from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs – compounds that easily become vapors or gases. These substances have been linked to health problems ranging from headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer. In a normal room-temperature environment, VOCs evaporate and humans breathe them in.

Our research team, along with colleagues at Colorado State University, recently investigated chemical exposures in six Colorado nail salons and found that employees spent their days exposed to high levels of VOCs. Participating technicians, who had worked in salons for up to 19 years, reported suffering headaches and skin and eye irritation.

We measured levels of benzene and formaldehyde in the salons, and determined that exposure to these known human carcinogens was increasing the workers’ lifetime cancer risks above one in one million – the level that many U.S. agencies consider acceptable in regulating exposure to harmful substances.