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The Dark Side of the Nail Salon Industry

Many people in Iowa and elsewhere regularly visit nail salons to have beautifully designed nail extensions sculpted and lacquered on their fingers. While a clean and shiny manicure is often considered glamorous and professional, there is a price that many nail technicians pay when providing this service for their clients.

There is a distinct odor to nail salons, especially those that offer acrylic nail extensions. Some customers like this distinctive scent, although many others are sensitive to the strong chemical smell. For those who work hours each day exposed to the fumes and getting these chemicals on their hands, the effects can be more than inconvenient – it can affect their health. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many hazardous chemicals are used in nail salons, including acetone, acid primer and monomer (the liquid used in acrylic applications). Adverse health effects include eye and skin irritation, dizziness, fainting and breathing problems. Some nail techs also experience more severe reactions, including allergies due to chronic chemical exposure and lung disease.

A report by the New York Times suggested that miscarriages, developmental defects and learning disabilities were a risk for nail technicians who were pregnant while working in salons. Some studies showed a correlation between exposure to nail salon chemicals and cancer, although the results varied widely and were at times conflicted.

The studies also showed that nail technicians were at the most risk when they did not use protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and ventilators. Some techs complained that their employers did not offer protective equipment either due to cost or aesthetics. Those who suffer a job-related illness or injury because their employers did not allow protective measures may be eligible for compensation.