Hidden Dangers in Nail Salons

The cost of beauty can be higher than the price of the service. Most of us have smelled the scent of nail polish and nail polish removers when in or near a nail salon. While these fumes may be irritating to the customer, for workers, the chemicals can be seriously dangerous. When workers are in a nail salon day after day, they are inhaling toxic fumes on a continuous basis. Over time, repeated and direct exposure can “add up” and cause damage to the workers’ lungs and serious health conditions, according to many authorities. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA)

The United States federal agency charged with monitoring and enforcing workplace safety has issued reports on chemical hazards in nail salons. One report states that nail salon products can expose workers to dangerous chemicals by breathing harmful vapors, dusts, or mists; by physical exposure through contact with the skin or eyes; and by swallowing the product if it is accidentally transferred to food or drink. 

Nail Salon Dangerous Products and Chemicals and OSHA Rules

The lists of potentially harmful products include nail polish remover, fingernail glue remover, nail polish, nail primer, and nail hardener. The chemicals included in the products are an alphabet soup of items including acetone, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene. OSHA rules require product manufacturers to provide salon owners with a safety data sheet for products containing these dangerous chemicals. 

A Recent Study of Nail Salons

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. It found that the fumes that come from nail salons originate from volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs. When these fumes are exposed to average room temperatures, they evaporate, and people in the vicinity of the fumes inhale them into their bodies.

VOCs and Health Issues

VOCs are known to cause many health issues, such as headaches, respiratory problems, complications with the reproductive system, and even cancer. After studying six different nail salons, the researchers found that long-term nail salon employees frequently suffered from headaches, skin issues, and irritated eyes.

The study focused on ten VOCs, including benzene and formaldehyde, which are known carcinogens. It was found that the levels of these toxic fumes in the salons studied exceeded the thresholds thought to be safe by U.S. governmental agencies. Exposure was so great, in fact, that the study likened it to working in an oil refinery or an auto repair shop.

Similar studies have yielded similar results. A study conducted in  2018 found that nail salons there also had high concentrations of benzene and other toxins. A study emerging from Michigan also found that nail salons contained high concentrations of toluene — over 100 parts per billion. That is greater than 30 times the concentration found outdoors in cities. According to an article posted by Safety and Health Magazine, long-term exposure to the sharp and sweet smell of toluene has a strong impact on the central nervous system that can result in loss of consciousness and even death.

Factors Contributing to the Nail Salon Problem

Nail salons may be even more dangerous than construction sites and other workplaces that are known for their inherent dangers. Government agencies responsible for overseeing the safety of workplaces, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have admitted that the levels of toxins they have deemed acceptable are out of date. They have also admitted that the levels they state as being acceptable do not protect workers.

While OSHA does offer recommendations for businesses, this places the burden on small businesses, such as nail salons, to protect their workers. The problem is that these small businesses are unlikely to keep up with safety recommendations from government agencies, and few if any have staff members dedicated to ensuring safety procedures are followed.

Additionally, many beauty products, particularly those used in nail salons, are improperly labeled. A study conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency found that 10 out of 12 products used for nails were labeled as being ‘toluene-free’ even though they contained as much as 17% toluene.

What can Salon Workers do?

Faced with the news that chemical fumes may cause harm, it is natural for salon workers to wonder what they can do to protect themselves. Other than wearing a mask while working to reduce the amount of fumes inhaled, there may not be much. The OSHA report lists several steps that can address the risk including:

  • Use the least hazardous chemical, ventilate the room, use an exhaust system, use gloves and goggles, and use respirators (not merely a surgical mask).

However, workers who find that they suffer from adverse health conditions due to their working conditions can speak to an attorney for help filing a workers’ compensation claim. A workers’ compensation claim can help employees with their medical expenses and cover a portion of their lost income when workers become ill due to unsafe working conditions.

Unfortunately, recovering workers’ compensation benefits for health conditions due to noxious fumes is not always easy. Insurance companies and employers typically fight these claims. And, even if the claim is determined to be valid or “compensable,” employers and their insurers will likely dispute the value of the claim.

In addition to a worker’s compensation act claim, an attorney may be able to help injured workers file a products liability injury claim against manufacturers that do not warn customers or that improperly label their products that contain toxins. These claims are extremely complex and costly to pursue. Injured workers wishing to file a product liability claim should always speak to an attorney with experience taking legal action against large manufacturers and their insurance companies.

Want to File a Claim? Call Our Noxious Fumes Attorneys

No one should have to suffer from serious health consequences just for doing their job. If you have suffered serious consequences as a result of inhaling noxious fumes at your place of work, speak to one of our noxious fumes attorneys today. At Blumenshine Law Group, we can help you determine whether you need to file a workers’ compensation insurance claim or a personal injury claim. Regardless of the type of claim you need, we will walk you through the entire process and give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Call or text us today at (312) 766-1000, or email [email protected].

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