Besides the questionable labor practices that surround the nail salons, glues, lacquers, and dust in the workplace create their own risks for nail technicians.

The smells come from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs – compounds that easily become vapors or gases.

These substances has linked to health problems ranging from headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer.

Researcher Dr. Lupita Montoya say’s

The study of salons carried out by the University of Colorado and led by Dr. Lupita Montoya.

Dr. Montoya has been curious about the effects of airborne chemicals in nail salons ever since a visit to a nail bar a decade ago left her struck by its pungent smell. 

She worried the confined space and poor ventilation would expose workers to circulating chemicals and tried for years to investigate the long-term health consequences nail technicians may face.

The risks are many Dust shavings from filed nails can settle on the skin like pollen and cause irritation or been inhaled (and those small particles could contain chemicals from the polishes or acrylics). Technicians could also inhale harmful vapors or mists from the chemicals in the shop. The compounds could also settle into workers’ eyes.

Moreover, these substances could be swallowed while eating, drinking or puffing on a cigarette during a break.

A 2015 New York Times exposé highlighted underpayment and poor working conditions in New York nail salons. However, it failed to address chemical exposures that salon workers experience daily.

Their research shows that nail salon workers are exposed to higher levels of VOCs than they would typically be expected to encounter in most homes, occupations or urban environments. As a result, these workers frequently experience work-related health symptoms.

The campaign for this common-sense reform was largely led by advocacy groups like the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

Practical steps like this can improve conditions for workers who receive little attention but are being exposed to serious health risks on the job every day. 

The solution of chemical exposure

The researchers believe placing specially-treated wood or coal in nail salons could ‘absorb’ these airborne chemicals via ‘passive diffusion’.

It would take a long time to have an effect, however, air jets could direct the polluted air towards the absorbent material. 

‘We’ve seen high rates of chemical removal with this method in controlled lab settings – nearly 100 percent,’ Dr. Montoya said. ‘We’re still optimizing it for the field, where conditions are more unpredictable’.

Unfortunately, workers have to worry about more than chemical risks. Nail technicians can develop aches and pains from bending over or being in the same position for long periods.

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