Working in a nail salon might not seem like risky business, but manicurists and pedicurists are constantly exposed to a number of chemical and biological hazards that if not heeded can cause serious injury and illness.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many of the products commonly used in nail salons contain harmful chemicals. While less toxic products are increasingly available, most nail salons continue to use conventional products made with harmful chemicals. Over time, repeated use of these products and/or exposure to them in high concentrations can inflict physical harm and lead to serious health problems.
Every salon worker has the right to work in an environment that does not put them at risk of serious harm, and every nail salon owner has the responsibility to provide workers with a safe working environment, OSHA says. Safety starts with awareness, so nail salon employees should be familiar with the dangers they potentially face in their line of work:
- Acetone (nail polish remover): Exposure and high concentrations can lead to headaches, dizziness, irritated eyes, skin, and throat.
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (nail polish): nausea, irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat.
- Ethyl methacrylate (EMA) (artificial nail liquid): asthma, irritated eyes, skin, nose and mouth; difficulty concentrating. Exposure during pregnancy may have an adverse effect on the child. Many states ban the use of methyl methacrylate.
- Formaldehyde (nail polish, nail hardener): can cause cancer; difficulty breathing; asthma like attacks; allergic reactions; irritated eyes, skin, and throat.
- Toluene (nail polish, fingernail glue): dry or cracked skin; headaches, dizziness, and numbness; irritated eyes, nose, throat, and lungs; damage to liver and kidneys; and harm to unborn children during pregnancy.
U.S. law mandates that manufacturers of nail salon products containing hazardous chemicals must provide appropriate warnings and precautionary statements. Federal safety regulations also require nail salon managers to provide employees with safety data sheets for the products that contain hazardous chemicals. These data sheets contain information about hazardous ingredients, how employees can be exposed, health and safety risks including possible chemical injury, and steps for safe use and storage.
Employers in the salon industry can also protect employee health by using products that are free of harmful chemicals whenever available; ventilating salons and regularly replacing recycled air with fresh air from outside; and keeping exhaust and ventilation systems running continually.
Employees should take care to keep salon products off of their skin and out of their eyes; wear gloves and goggles when using salon products; wear long-sleeve shirts; wash hands frequently; and safety store chemicals and always keep them out of range of food.
For information about additional nail salon hazards and recommended precautions, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s online resources for nail salon managers and employees at the link provided below.