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Toxic Polish May Put Nail Technicians at Risk

Throughout the United States, approximately 350,000 people work in nail salons or similar establishments. Nail technicians, 96 percent of whom are women, provide customers with manicures, pedicures and other beauty-enhancing services.

Unfortunately, the work these people do may be putting them at risk for developing serious occupational diseases.

Every day, nail technicians work with nail polish, solvents and other nail-care products. Some of these products contain chemicals that can be hazardous to health in cases of long-term exposure. As a group, nail technicians report higher than average instances of headaches, skin irritations and respiratory problems.

To avoid these problems, many technicians and salon owners choose to purchase products that are labeled "non-toxic." However, new studies are showing that even so-called "non-toxic" polishes may contain hazardous chemicals.

Investigators at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control sampled several brands of nail care products and found that many of them contained formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, even though they were labeled "non-toxic." These chemicals have been found to increase the risk of cancer and birth defects.

In response, the companies that manufacture nail products are saying that salons should focus on using proper ventilation and supplying adequate protective gear to its technicians.

All workers have a right to expect that they will be kept safe while on the job. Nail technicians who develop an illness or injury as a result of occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals can seek benefits under Colorado workers' compensation law. In addition, workers may have recourse to bring a third-party liability personal injury lawsuit if it can be shown that the products were unreasonably dangerous.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Toxic Products in California Nail Salons Under Renewed Scrutiny," Anna Gorman, April 10, 2012.

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