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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


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.

Nail salon workers may be exposed to dangerous chemicals and fumes.

The chemical smell wafting out of most nail salons may be familiar, but it’s a health threat to the workers that are exposed to these chemicals every day.

A growing concern over the “toxic trio” – the chemicals toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde that can be found in many nail polishes and treatments – have prompted some authorities to pass new regulations regarding the health and safety of nail salon workers, but most of them continue to work in poorly ventilated areas with little or no protection against the fumes.

Since many nail salon workers are newly arrived immigrants less likely to complain, and many health effects may only become apparent over the long-term, the issues has been flying under the radar for some time.

However, with a growing public awareness of the danger of chemical exposure, and after the toxic trio chemicals were listed as substances that can cause cancer and birth defects, action seems overdue.

In addition, studies have shown that nail salon workers have a greater prevalence of respiratory and skin conditions as well as headaches.

What is the toxic trio?

  • Toluene – a solvent found in nail glues, can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, linked to short-term memory loss and neurological problems
  • DBP – a chemical used to reduce polish brittleness and cracking, is hazardous for pregnant women and has been linked with reproductive problems
  • Formaldehyde – a hardener and preservative, is a known carcinogen and has been linked to asthma

Experts recommend using more natural, organic products and opting for nail treatments with the least amount of chemicals in them. Nail salon workers should have work stations that are well ventilated.

The Salon 5000 and 6000 are ideal for nail salons and spas.

Wearing a mask will only protect from dust and tiny particles, but not from chemical fumes.

A portable air filter with activated carbon and HEPA and a source capture attachment can reduce the amount of chemicals, fumes and particles right at the source. Electrocorp offers a variety of air cleaners for beauty salons and spas.

Contact us for more information.

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