Nail technicians in discount nail salons are being exposed to toxic chemicals at alarming rates, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the University of Toronto, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre and the Healthy Nail Salons Network, highlights just how bad the exposure to chemicals is. Many of the chemicals found in these nail salons are more commonly used as fire retardants and plasticizers.
Shockingly, they found that discount nail salon employees had far more exposure to toxic chemicals than even people who work with electronic waste.
“We were very surprised to find exposures for some chemicals up to 30 times higher among nail salon workers relative to exposures in homes, and up to 10 times higher than in e-waste handling facilities,” Miriam Diamond, co-author and professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Earth Sciences, said in a press release.
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While plasticizers are widely used in personal care products, one plasticizer, DEHP, that was detected is actually banned in Canada. While it is not ideal that the product was found, the researchers said it was detected in low levels, meaning the ban is at least keeping DEHP use to a minimum.
“The finding of low exposure to the plasticizer DEHP is important – it shows the current regulations for this compound are working,” Diamond said.
In addition to high levels of plasticizers, the researchers also found high levels of fire retardants in the salons. This is cause for concern as fire retardants are not known for their use in personal care products.
According to the press release, many of the fire retardant chemicals that were found have restricted or controlled use under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. However, the study notes that Ontario doesn’t regulate many of them, and it’s not clear how or why the chemicals were used in the salons.
“Nail technicians have been raising concerns about the impact of their work on their bodies, including worries about reproductive, respiratory, skin and musculoskeletal health for many years now,” Victoria Arrandale, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said in the press release.
Despite the overall health and safety concerns, the researchers say that many nail technicians enjoy the creativity, artistry and personal care involved in their work.
The researchers involved in the study say that their findings indicate that the federal government needs to have better regulation of products used in Canadian nail salons. They are urging the government to take action to protect salon employees and customers.
“This research shows us that our federal government needs to pay attention to making the products that are used in nail salons safer, for both customers and nail technicians,” Van Tran, nail technician and Nail Salon Outreach Worker at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, said in the release.
The study, published on February 14, was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development Research Opportunity Program.