Nail and beauty salon employees are potentially exposed to dozens of chemicals including acrylates (epoxies or resins), solvents, and biocides as dusts or vapors. Some chemicals commonly used in salons can enter breast milk or be carried home on skin, clothes, and shoes.
Approximately 350,000 people are employed in nail salons and other personal care services in the United States according to industry estimates (Nails Magazine, 2008–2009). These estimates indicate the workforce is largely female (96%) with the industry employing a large number of minority workers (63%).
Nail salon employees are potentially exposed to dozens of chemicals including acrylates, solvents, and biocides as dusts or vapors. A small but growing number of studies have examined possible links between nail technicians' work and health outcomes, such as respiratory, neurological, and musculoskeletal effects, as well as other health conditions. Much of the NIOSH-sponsored research to-date has focused on the respiratory system.
Concerns about job-related health effects associated with chemicals routinely used by nail technicians drew new attention on May 11, 2015, when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced a new initiative to “prevent unlawful practices and unsafe working conditions” in New York nail salons, following the publication of a two-part investigative series in the New York Times .
Nail technicians perform manicures and may also perform pedicures. Manicures are performed over a workstation—or "nail table"—with the client's hands resting on the table as they work. The nail table is, therefore, directly below the nail technicians' breathing zone. Downdraft vented nail tables and portable source capture systems that place local exhaust ventilation close to the work area provide the means to vent (remove) potential dust or chemicals away from the breathing zone. Thus, theoretically, potential contaminants may be removed before they cross the breathing zone and are inhaled.
Good general room ventilation is also important. There is some overlap in nail products and processes for manicures and pedicures. Exposures may differ, though, as pedicures involve processes such as soaking feet, filing calluses, and the use of pedicure work stations, but do not typically involve artificial nail application.