Nail salons and chemical overexposure: The risks facing Missouri workers

55175_nails.jpgThe summer months bring increased business to beauty salons across the United States. Summertime reigns as the busiest season for nail technicians in the U.S., with more than 375,000 people working in salons daily. However, many of these workers are not aware of the hazardous chemicals they are exposed to every day and the health risks they pose. Chemicals from nail polishes, glues, removers, and salon products can be detrimental to technicians' health. Without taking certain safety steps, nail technicians could face long term health risks from workplace exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of hazardous chemicals commonly used in nail salons, which notes that employees are exposed to many chemicals, including methacrylic acids and acetates. Chemicals present in salons pose potent hazards and when mixed together, they can become even more dangerous. Employers must work to prevent chemical exposure by properly ventilating the salon and keeping potential dust or chemicals away from breathing zones. Employers can remove dangerous chemicals from breathing zones by using fans and other technologies that provide air circulation. The good news is that workplace illnesses connected to nail salons are largely preventable, provided the appropriate safety precautions are taken.

Also, nail salon owners are urged to reduce usage of products that contain certain hazardous chemicals, and seek out products that are acid free and "3-free" (those made without the "toxic trio": toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate). Reducing the number of chemicals present in the salon automatically decreases the risk of exposure. Another way to protect employees from overexposure is to diligently schedule breaks and allow appropriate time off from all types of chemical exposure. Lastly, always handle chemicals with care. Remember to keep bottles tightly sealed when not in use, and properly dispose of all chemicals.

Chemical overexposure can cause serious health-related consequences for nail technicians. Some studies have linked musculoskeletal disorders, skin problems, respiratory irritation, and headaches to work-related chemical exposure in nail salons. There are more than 10,000 nail products regularly used that do not have EPA safety approval, so the risks of future health problems are high.