Researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, in association with Asian Health Services, recently conducted a study of the chemical agents that salon workers are exposed to on a daily basis. According to the new study, harmful and dangerous chemicals may be jeopardizing the health of many Vietnamese nail salon employees. As a result, daily exposure to these life-threatening chemicals may be the reason for adverse health symptoms they have experienced while working.
The study evaluated the work environment of 80 nail salon workers, all of whom were women of Vietnamese descent, from 20 different salons. Each of the women were instructed to wear a specific monitor that was able to measure concentrations of toluene, ethyl acetate, and isopropyl acetate.
Researchers discovered that the average toluene levels identified in the salons were 0.15 parts per million. According to the study, that is about two times the amount recommended by the California Environmental Protection Agency for indoor air. Toluene is used as a solvent in a variety of nail products, such as nail polish, nail hardeners, and polish removers. However, unsafe levels of toluene have been linked to neurological, reproductive and endocrine damage. This solvent was reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel in 1987, and the Panel determined that it was safe for cosmetic use in nail products when limited to concentrations no greater than 50 percent.
However, this recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, discovered that the levels of toluene were twice the recommended amount for indoor air. Study researcher Thu Quach, PhD, MPH, says “This really explains why we have been hearing from salon workers about the health problems that they have”. The most frequent complaints common among salon workers included irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, shortness of breath, nausea, and coughing. However, researchers fear of the long term health effects that may plague works later in life.
Nail salon workers may be at heightened risk of health problems because they are exposed to the chemicals on a daily basis. However, Quach explains, the toxins are in the nail care products a well, which means that customers are exposed to the harmful chemicals too.
“It’s definitely a national issue,” says Julia Liou, MPH, manager of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, an organization founded in 2005 to address the health and safety concerns among California salon workers. “We’re concerned about their cumulative, chronic, and long-term health problems.”
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