David Frome is a Physical Therapist, Acupuncturist and owner of The Air Cleaner Store. . He has published articles on air quality issues in nail salons and holds this issue close to his heart. He believes that clean air is a right and not a privilege and that indoor air quality issues are everyone’s concern
In her recent article, “The Price of Nice Nails,” New York Times author Sarah Maslin Nir interviewed over 100 nail salon employees to learn about this industry and the lives of nail care workers. She exposes some deeply disturbing problems. Employees of nail salons are often exploited, receiving wages that are a small fraction of the $8.75 minimum wage standard set by the Federal Government. Additionally, there is a “caste system,” where Hispanic and Chinese people are forced to work in substandard conditions. In the USA, we take pride in have high standards for human rights. In response to this article and what it exposes, Governor Como is assembling an emergency task force to tackle these problems.
Sarah Maslin Nir also wrote a companion article, “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers.” Here, she explores how the chemicals used in nail care are affecting the salon workers health. Chemicals used to make nail polish, nail adhesives, artificial nails, solvents and hardeners have toxic and potentially hazardous ingredients.
Manicurists have an unusually high risk to develop skin rashes, respiratory problems, headaches and reproductive problems such as miscarriages, stillbirths and abnormal fetal development. Salon workers children have an unusually high incidence of developmental problems, which are probably linked to the chemical exposure of the mother during pregnancy.
While there are hundreds of chemicals used to make nail products, the chief chemical culprits are ethyl methacrylate (EMA), toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. The principal artificial fingernail ingredient is (EMA). In 1974 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned a similar chemical, methyl methacrylate (MMA), used in fingernail products. Both MMA and EMA can result in contact dermatitis, asthma, and allergies of the eyes and nose. Both these chemicals can result in redness, stinging, and swelling of the eyes, nose, and mouth and throat. How do these chemicals irritate us? Liquids used in nail care products are often volatile. That means these products release gasses into the air (VOC’s). These fumes enter our bodies as we breathe. Liquids include nail polish remover, nail polish, nail adhesives and hardeners used to make artificial nails.
The shaping of nails and artificial nails produces dust. We also breathe in this dust into our nose, throat and lungs where it too and it can create problems. Many people openly show allergic reactions to these airborne irritants. Their symptoms include coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, tears and asthma. For others, the symptoms and risks are less obvious, but no less profound. These chemicals could silently create health problems for everyone in your salon.
Does the government test nail care products for safety? No, the FDA does not routinely test new products and chemicals used in salons for safety. Obviously, industry “self policing” is not working to date.
Is it ok for you and your nail care specialist to be exposed to toxic chemicals? It’s time for a change. Listen to this podcast to learn the Three Steps To Safety.
Contact Leslie Reichert for a discount on an Austin Air Purifier, mentioned in this podcast.