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US salons will employ more than 100,000 workers by 2022

Many nail salon workers are women of reproductive age who may be exposed to toxic chemicals.

Many nail salon workers are women of reproductive age who may be exposed to toxic chemicals.

When New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, JD, announced that her office was releasing a report on nail salons last year, it was anything but a frivolous task.

The policy report, “How Safe is Your Nail Salon?,” released in September, took a look at health and safety practices for both consumers and workers in New York City’s nail salons.

And with more than 2,000 businesses licensed to do manicures and pedicures in the city alone, the health of a large swath of the public is affected. In New York, the salons are regulated by the state — which has just 27 inspectors to help maintain their safety, James told The Nation’s Health.

The health and wellness of nail salon employees is no small matter, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there were 86,900 manicurists and pedicurists in the U.S. in 2012. That number is expected to rise to 100,400 by 2022.

But that estimate is probably far too low, according to the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which estimates there are 97,100 manicurists in California alone right now.

Up to 80 percent of those workers are Vietnamese immigrants, and more than 50 percent are women of reproductive age.

Duyen Tran, MPH, an APHA member and the interim outreach coordinator for the collaborative, says there are several reasons that nail salon work appeals to young women in the Vietnamese community.

Some of it is the flexibility working in a nail salon can afford: Employees can tailor their schedules around their families’ needs. Another reason is the ease with which a worker can enter into the industry and start making money. Training courses, which are 12 to 18 months long, and exams are offered in Vietnamese.

“To do nail salon work you don’t need high English proficiency,” Tran told The Nation’s Health. “It doesn’t require intensive English training, so it’s really an opportunity for this recent immigrant population to enter the workforce and use it to support their families and communities in a very short time.”

But joining the workforce means exposure to known dangerous products — and potentially unknown dangers, as well.

Three chemicals pose most risks to workers

The biggest risks to nail salon workers are “the toxic trio:” Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate are the most common and dangerous ingredients in nail products, including polish and polish remover, that have been linked to serious health risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toluene exposure has been linked to tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite and hearing and color vision loss. High levels of exposure have been linked to kidney damage.

Formaldehyde exposure can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, causing tearing, and skin irritation, according to CDC, and is a known carcinogen. CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes that dibutyl phthalate is linked to organ development issues in fetuses when exposed during gestation.

The toxic trio can be transmitted as airborne particles, through product contact with skin or eyes and via unintentional transfer of the materials to uncovered food, drink or cigarettes, according to research from the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reported that chemical levels can exceed 826 parts per million during the application of acrylics in nail salons, but proper ventilation can drop that to 12.4 parts per million.

Despite these risks, in Nails Magazine’s 2014-15 report, “Nails Big Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Nail Industry,” 34 percent of nail salon workers reported that they never wear protective gloves while working. Sixty-one percent said they never wear a mask while working. And more than half reported having work-related health concerns. Twenty-three percent said they were uninsured.

Salons can promote safety for workers

Though self-reported low numbers of nail salon workers take safety precautions, state and federal government regulations require certain steps to be taken to ensure worker safety. OSHA distributes “Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers,” which outlines workers’ rights to health and safety for both employees and salon owners.

The guide has been translated to Vietnamese, Spanish and Korean. And OSHA has been working to reach out to communities to make sure workers’ rights are well-known, said Mandy Edens, MSPH, director of OSHA’s directorate for technical support and emergency management.

Source: The Nation’s Health; The article has been edited for length.

Concerned about chemical fumes in your salon or spa? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of indoor air cleaners for the beauty industry, which can remove airborne chemicals and particles, including toluene and formaldehyde. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation. Call 1-866-667-0297 or write to

Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail salons are where women turn for pampering and polish. But under the luxurious veneer, salons aren’t always healthy places to be.

Authorities are beginning to notice the serious health risks associated with nail products and they are starting to act.

Last year, Alameda County’s Department of Environmental Health began a Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program to push its roughly 350 salons, which employ 1,000 manicurists, to adopt healthier practices. San Francisco was the first city in the nation to launch such a program in 2012, and Santa Monica followed in July.

Alameda County publicly honored Leann’s Nails and six other salons last month for becoming certified in its program. Requirements include installing proper ventilation and ensuring employees wear gloves. Salons also must significantly limit their use of products with chemicals that are health hazards.

“These people are working with these materials constantly,” said Pamela Evans, the coordinator of Alameda County’s nail salon program. “They’re being used right in very close proximity to people’s breathing zones.”


Losing the ‘toxic trio’

The polishes in Leann’s Nails come in every hue, from turquoise to fuchsia, but a sign makes it clear that they do not contain what health officials refer to as the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde.

Exposure to these compounds can result in headaches, dizziness and irritations in the eyes, skin, nose and throat. It can also lead to more severe, long-term problems.

Dibutyl phthalate, which gives polishes flexibility and a moisturizing sheen, is linked to developmental problems in animals. Toluene, which is used to create a smooth look in polishes, can cause damage to the liver and kidneys and harm unborn children during pregnancy. And formaldehyde, which hardens polish, is a carcinogen.

Those are just the polishes. Businesses that join the county’s Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program also must stay away from polish removers with butyl acetate, methyl acetate and ethyl acetate, which collectively can cause drowsiness and irritate the eyes, skin and other parts of the body.

Finally, salons must not use thinners – which remove thick clumps from polish – that contain toluene or methyl ethyl ketone, which is associated with upset stomachs, headaches and loss of appetite.

Environment regulators and consumer advocates have long been trying to limit these exposures.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to evaluate workers’ exposure to dust and chemical vapors, and, if the levels are a health risk, provide workers with respiratory gear for protection.

Most work in a nail salon will not require respiratory protection if proper ventilation and safe work practices are in place, according to the agency.


Misleading claims

But it can be difficult to properly evaluate chemical exposures, especially because some nail products that claim to be free of the “toxic trio” in fact contain one or more of the hazardous chemicals, according to a 2012 analysis of 25 randomly selected products by the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Symptoms can also worsen when they go unreported, as is often the case among the thousands of Vietnamese women employed in salons, said Julia Liou, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, a health advocacy group.

Of California’s estimated 300,000 licensed nail technicians, about 80 percent are of Vietnamese descent, Liou said. Many do not speak English well, feel uncomfortable complaining to management and are of child-bearing age, when reproductive poisons can be particularly harmful.

“Workers often feel very powerless to invoke their rights to have a healthy workplace,” said Liou, who is also director of program planning and development at Asian Health Services, an Oakland community health center.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


Remove dangerous chemicals in hair and nail salons

An well designed, industrial-strength air purifier can help remove the toxic fumes and odors that may affect the workers and clients at salons and spas.

Electrocorp offers air cleaners that were specifically designed for hair and nail salons, with a deep-bed activated carbon and HEPA filter as well as source capture attachments for the best protection.

Contact Electrocorp to ask about customizable air purifiers for nail salons and spas, such as the CleanBreeze 2 or the CleanBreeze 3.

Working with nail polish every day could lead to serious health effects,
experts warn.
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

Summertime is sandal time and one of the busiest times of year for the thousands of nail salons across North America.

The clipping, filing and polishing industry has become a popular venture.

In Canada’s Toronto alone, residents can pick from 1,152 spots to get their nails done. The state of New York has approximately 4,100 nail salons.

But while most clients see their occasional manicure and pedicure as a treat and an occasion to relax, the technicians servicing their nails are exposed to dangerous organic solvents and harsh chemicals emitted by nail polishes and nail products.

The biggest health threats come from chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetone, toluene and dibutyl phthalate.

Some of the reported health effects include

  • Asthma
  • Rashes
  • Damage to the reproductive system
  • Effects to sexual organ development in male fetuses

Experts suggest different tactics to minimize the risks to employees. For example, using spring-loaded bottles for polish remover to reduce the amount of escaping vapors, installing tilted and ventilated tables, using healthier polish brands and high-quality particle masks, updating the ventilation system to remove odors and chemicals and raising awareness among nail technicians.

One of the problems is that many workers in nail salons are recent immigrants from China or Vietnam, who may be too afraid to complain about health problems, researchers say.

Have you ever been affected by the fumes or smells in nail salons and spas? Tell us about it!

Source: The Globe and Mail

Clean the air in spas and nail salons

Air cleaners for nail salons:
5000 and 6000 Salon

When a full HVAC update or renovation project is beyond a nail salon’s budget, individual air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA can help remove dangerous particles, chemicals and odors.

Electrocorp has developed a range of air cleaners for beauty salons and spas that feature some of the largest adsorbent surface areas for gases and fumes and the longest-lasting and most efficient filters available on the market.

The 5000 and 6000 Salon air purifiers, for example, are also equipped with a source capture attachment that can be positioned right above the working area, so that harmful chemicals and fumes as well as fine particles are removed right at the source, before they become airborne.

Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Mislabeled nail products put customers and workers at risk, California investigators say.

A California report raises concerns about some nail polishes in California salons that are advertised as being free of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) as being mislabeled.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control report, these products could put customers and workers at risk, since these chemicals have been linked to birth defects, asthma and other health problems.

The mislabeled nail products can be found in more than 48,000 nail salons in California.

Use of the three chemicals is legal if the product is properly labeled. The companies may face fines and legal requirements to change product labels.

Investigators found significant levels of chemicals

Out of the 12 products that claimed to be free of toluene, 10 actually contained the chemical, and four products contained dangerously high levels.

The investigators also found that five out of seven products claiming to be “free of the toxic three” had one or more of the chemicals in significant levels.

The mislabeled products include:

  • Sation 99 basecoat.
  • Sation 53 red-pink nail color.
  • Dare to Wear nail lacquer.
  • Chelsea 650 Baby’s Breath Nail Lacquer.
  • New York Summer Nail Color.
  • Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer.
  • Sunshine nail lacquer.
  • Cacie Light Free Gel Basecoat.
  • Cacie Sun Protection Topcoat.
  • Golden Girl Topcoat.
  • Nail Art Top-N-Seal.
  • High Gloss Topcoat.

These nail polishes are only available in salons, not in stores.

Inhaling the chemicals can be a significant occupational health and safety risk for the more than 121,000 licensed nail care technicians working in salons, especially when they are of childbearing age.

Poor ventilation is a common concern in nail salons, which adds to the potential exposure.

Source: CBC News

Source capture air cleaners for nail salons and spas

Spa and salon air cleaners with source capture attachments.

The air in nail salons and spas can be full of toxic chemicals, odors and other types of pollutants, and general ventilation systems are often unable to provide a healthy indoor environment.

Electrocorp has developed air cleaners for nail salons, hair salons and spas that can remove toxins from the ambient air.

Their multistage filtration system with activated carbon and HEPA protect from the widest range of pollutants and special source capture attachments can remove toxins at the source before they have a chance to spread.

For more information, contact Electrocorp: 1-866-667-0297.

Most hair salons use chemical-laden products that can affect workers and clients.

Organic products are popular when it comes to food, baby products or clothing – but a lot of hairdressers and salons are also catching on.

Some hair salons are focusing on offering only organic products and treatments, while others are looking to minimize the exposure to toxic chemicals conventional products may contain.

Concerned with chemicals and fumes, some salon owners in New York State have switched to all organic hair and skin products, including shampoo, hair dye, nail polish remover and more.

In the process, they have to be less concerned about chemicals such as acetone, formaldehyde, ammonia and others that are commonly found in hair and nail products.

Indoor air quality in salons has become a major topic after OSHA released a health hazard warning about formaldehyde early last year.

The ventilation system in many salons is simply not strong enough to provide workers and clients with healthy and fresh air.

Perm and hair straightening treatments are typically the biggest odor culprits in salons, and many salon owners and operators are opting for a source capture air cleaner for added protection from released chemicals and fumes.

Capture chemicals and odors with air cleaners for salons and spas

As an expert in treating industrial strength chemicals and odors, Electrocorp has designed air cleaners specifically for spas and salons.

The air filtration systems feature proprietary blends of activated carbon filter media that can adsorb chemicals and odors commonly found in the beauty industry.

As complete air filter solutions, the units also contain medical-grade HEPA or micro-HEPA filters to remove 99.97% of all airborne particles at 0.3 microns.

Along with easy-to-use source capture units, Electrocorp also offers customizable and built-in air filtration systems to meet your needs.

Contact Electrocorp for more information.

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