While the chemicals found in nail polish, nail polish remover, and fingernail glue may not be good for someone that gets a pedicure once a month, nail salon workers face a far larger threat.
When we talk about the dangers of pesticide residue found on fruits and vegetables, we often overlook the health threats to those that grow our produce. Pesticides may be poisonous in small amounts, but those that apply them face much worse health repercussions. The same is true for those that provide for our gorgeous finger and toenails.
A recent article in The New York Times looked at the growing body of medical research surrounding some of the concern over chemicals found in nail salons. While respiratory and skin problems are widely accepted health issues, many of the chemicals used also contain ingredients linked to cancer, miscarriages, and abnormal fetal development.
“We know that a lot of the chemicals are very dangerous,” David Michaels, the assistant labor secretary who heads the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety said to The New York Times. “We don’t need to see the effect in nail salon workers to know that they are dangerous to the workers.”
While the research is limited, the issues keep cropping up, according to the Times:
A number of studies have also found that cosmetologists — a group that includes manicurists, as well as hairdressers and makeup artists — have elevated rates of death from Hodgkin’s disease, of low birth-weight babies and of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.
Nail polishes and other nail products contain ingredients like toluene, specifically found in polish and fingernail glue. It’s been linked to damage to the liver and kidneys and harm to unborn children during pregnancy. Formaldehyde, found in nail polish and nail hardeners, is a known carcinogen and methyl methacrylate (MMA) found in fake nails, can cause asthma, difficulty concentrating, and even loss of smell. Nail products also contain phthalates, which have been associated with a host of developmental issues in unborn children as well as adverse effects to the liver, kidney, and reproductive organs.
The industry is hardly regulated and that’s a big part of the problem, according to the Times. Federal cosmetic laws are more than seventy-five years old. Plus, the FDA isn’t required to evaluate ingredients when they come onto the market. And the industry isn’t in favor of regulation.
But the problem has in fact gotten so big that older nail workers will tell their younger colleagues to avoid the profession while they’re of childbearing age. These nail salon workers shouldn’t be putting their health at risk for the sake of cheap manicures and pedicures. It’s absolutely scary to think that these chemicals, which are not regulated whatsoever, exist freely in 2015.
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Image of a nail salon from Shuttershock