Working at a New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Houma, Louisiana Nail Salon? Suffering from headaches, respiratory problems or fatigue? You may have reason to be concerned. Nail salon workers may be at an elevated risk for health problems caused by exposure to chemical toxins.
A recent research study from the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) sampled 80 female Vietnamese nail salon technicians working in more than twenty California nail salons, measuring personal and area concentrations of chemical solvents such as toluene, isopropyl acetate, and ethyl acetate. Results from the study showed the measured levels of the three solvents exceeded recommended concentration guidelines suggested to avoid health consequences related to exposure. Of the 80 participating workers, one-third reported experiencing health problems such as headache, irritation, nausea, and respiratory trouble after joining the salon workforce. Irritation of the nose, eye, throat, and skin were the most common health problem with 26.5% of participants reporting symptoms.
George Alexeef, deputy director of the California’s Environmental Health Hazard Assessment testified in 2009 that toluene and formaldehyde – two chemicals commonly found in nail salon products are among the list of substances capable of causing reproductive problems and cancer in addition to symptoms such as headaches, respiratory issues, and fatigue. Senator Carol Migden, head of the Senate’s Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, has stated that many of the products used in American beauty salons are known or suspected carcinogens and are already banned in Europe.
The AJPH study is part of an increased national focus on the previously overlooked health concerns of American salon technicians. Despite significant growth in the nation’s number of nail salons and the formation of technician groups calling for action, progress in research and legislation limiting or banning specific chemicals in salon products has been slow moving. The pending Safe Cosmetics Act would phase out products that contain harmful substances and require full disclosure of ingredients on salon product labels. Additionally, the legislation would grant the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cosmetic manufacturing regulatory power.
In light of their findings, the authors of the AJPH study called for “policy changes to update occupational exposure limits that take into account various chronic health conditions, better regulatory oversight of chemicals in cosmetic products, and more research focused on the health of understudied and vulnerable worker populations”. The study is published in the October 2011 AJPH publication entitled Environmental Justice and Disparities in Environmental Health.