Chemicals in Nail Polish

Learn About Nail Polish Toxicity

Formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, acetone, methylacrylates — nail treatments are among the most toxic products in the Skin Deep database. But despite the toxic nature of the products — and the large population of nail salon workers who use them on a daily basis — very little epidemiological or occupational health research has been conducted on this population of women, according to a 2007 analysis of studies by Women’s Voices for the Earth, Glossed Over. The few studies that have been conducted indicate cause for concern. Occupational health studies show decreased attention and processing skills as well as increased asthma in nail salon workers compared to women who don’t work in salons. Women of childbearing age are particularly vulnerable due to the greater risk of chemical exposures to developing babies.

A survey of nail technicians in Boston found considerable awareness among the workers that their occupation was affecting their health. A majority of the workers surveyed reported odors at work that made them feel bad, and they associated these odors with acrylic nail glues. Survey respondents also reported experiencing work-related headaches, skin problems and respiratory problems. Many of these technicians reported feeling better when they were away from work for a day or two. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum reports that Asian-American nail workers often feel powerless to change their work environments, and resistant to reporting the situation to occupational health authorities.

The Glossed Over report is available in both English and Vietnamese and recommends short-term solutions for reducing risk, such as ventilating work spaces and providing employees with safety information. In the long term, the report calls for International legislation to eliminate toxic ingredients from cosmetics and studies to determine the long-term effects of chronic exposures to nail- product chemicals. 









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