Tags: nail | polish | risks | manicurists

Hidden Risks in Nail Polish

By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:11 PM


Americans appear to be obsessed with having beautifully manicured nails. Nail salons are on almost every street corner in large cities, and even small towns have their share. But the popular industry has problems. In addition to the low salaries most manicurists make, a growing number of studies show that the chemicals used to make nails strong and beautiful cause serious health problems, especially among the female manicurists who work with the products every day.

According to the New York Times, in addition to respiratory and skin problems, some of the chemicals used by manicurists have been linked to several reproductive problems, including abnormal fetal development and miscarriages. Others studies show that workers in the field of cosmetology, including hairdressers and makeup artists as well as manicurists, have an increased risk of dying from Hodgkin's disease and multiple myeloma.

Queens physician Dr. Charles Hwu sees many women who have specific conditions but are otherwise healthy. "They come in usually with breathing problems, some symptoms similar to an allergy, and also asthma symptoms — they cannot breathe," he told the New York Times. "Judging from the symptoms with these women, it seems that they are either smokers, secondhand smokers or asthma patients, but they are none of the above. They work for nail salons."

Workers are unprotected. According to The Conversation, only about 10 percent of the 10,000 chemicals used in personal care products have ever been tested for safety. Manufacturers do not have to list ingredients on their labels, and even where ingredients are listed, there's no guarantee the labels are accurate.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a report that found nail polish contained harmful ingredients even though the labels maintained they didn't have the toxic compounds.

Nail polish often contains the following chemicals known as the "toxic trio:"

• Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and is linked to cancers of the nasal cavity and leukemia. In nail salons, it's used to harden nails and to disinfect tools.

• Toluene. Toluene can affect the central nervous system, and can also cause reproductive problems. It was listed in California's Proposition 65 as causing cancer, birth defects, and reproductive problems. Toluene's main use is in gasoline to improve octane ratings, but in nail salons it's used to create smooth nails and to keep color from separating in bottles.

• Dibutyl phthalates. Dibutyl phthalates are suspected endocrine disrupters and are linked to reproductive problems. They are used in nail salons to keep the polish from becoming brittle.

Experts suggest that when you buy nail polish, you avoid those containing formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalates. Avoiding these chemicals will not only protect you, but will encourage manufacturers to produce safer products.


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Americans appear to be obsessed with having beautifully manicured nails. Nail salons are on almost every street corner in large cities, and even small towns have their share. But the popular industry has problems. In addition to the low salaries most manicurists make, a...
nail, polish, risks, manicurists
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2015-11-21
Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:11 PM
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