Rethinking the Next Manicure: When the Quest for “Beauty” for Some Means Toxins for Others

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From, this article about the deleterious effects that working in nail salons can have on women’s health:

There are over 380,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. cosmetology industry, of which 96% are female and predominately of reproductive age. The typical nail salon worker earns less than $18,200 a year, lacks health care coverage, and is an immigrant Asian and Pacific Islander (API) woman with limited English language skills and education.

To address health and safety concerns of the national nail salon workforce, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, the National Asian Pacific American’s Women Forum (NAPAWF), and Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) formed the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance (NHNSA) in 2007.  * * *

One of the NHNSA’s biggest challenges lies in convincing US federal agencies to hold the beauty and personal care industry to a stricter standard to assure better protection for workers, owners, and the general public. On a daily basis and often for long hours at a time, nail salon technicians are exposed to substances such as toxic solvents, chemical solutions, glues, and cosmetic products, which contain thousands of chemicals; including some that are known to be carcinogenic or suspected to cause reproductive harm or other negative health impacts. These chemicals may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, some accumulating in the body over time. Childbearing women may also pass these toxins to their fetuses or breastfeeding newborns. Many API nail salon workers:recognizing the potential health threats to themselves and their future children:report that they plan to quit their jobs when pregnant to avoid toxic exposures. * * *

The top three chemicals of concern in many nail polishes are toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, also known as the”toxic trio.”These chemicals have been linked to cancer in addition to reproductive harms including miscarriages, infertility, and birth defects. However, despite the health impacts associated with the toxic trio, there is very limited governmental regulation or review over them and the 10,000 other chemicals used in cosmetic and personal care products.

For a reason not to get that next manicure or pedicure, check out the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance’s report “Phasing Out the Toxic Trio: A Review of Popular Nail Polish Brands.”

-Bridget Crawford

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