Your Nails Look Great, But They're Killing Your Manicurist

According to an article in the New York Times, a study by researchers at the University of Toronto found that children who, while in the womb, were exposed to the chemicals nail salon workers use performed worse on tests for cognitive function, language and behavior — and the intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1200 times that of the average American. Toluene (a colorless liquid used as a solvent), formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (which makes nail polish flexible) are all in regular use at nail salons, and all are on the government's list of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.

Thankfully, some action is being taken: Popular polish company OPI announced in March that it would begin removing toluene from its products. Last year, the company said it was removing dibutyl phthalate. In Springfield, MA, a community group received a $100,000 grant from the EPA to build a salon with a high-quality ventilation system — after six Vietnamese salon workers suffered miscarriages in that town. (Other manicurists suffered rashes, fungal infections and asthma.)

The International Herald Tribune reports that salon employees often work 60 hours a week without overtime pay or lunch breaks. And in a survey of nail salon employees in New York City, 37% of them said they had skin problems, 37% had eye irritation and 66% had neck or back discomfort. While it's great that the EPA has stepped in and one company is overhauling its formula, this is, of course, just another way that women suffer in the quest for beauty. We're now convinced that whatever we're tipping these women to deal with our nasty-ass hands and feet isn't nearly enough.
Studies Highlight Hazards of Manicurists' Chemicals [NY Times]
With Competition, An Ugly Side Of The Salon Business Emerges [International Herald Tribune]