Danger At Our Fingertips

Chemicals in nail polish have received much bad press over recent years as some scientific experts claim they are toxic and can seriously affect the health of salon workers.

Now CIDESCO, the international beauty therapy association representing the highest standards of aesthetics in more than 30 countries, has published a survey revealing therapists’ own concerns with chemicals in nail polish.

Earlier this year, Sean Byrne, a chemistry student from Ireland, carried out a survey* amongst CIDESCO members worldwide to investigate the use of formaldehydes in nail polish, the health risks caused by exposure and awareness among beauty therapists.

The study compared worker protections used in nail salons with other industries using these chemicals, such as furniture manufacturing and car body repairs.

The survey revealed that:

  • There is a good level of formaldehyde awareness among salon workers – 96.1 percent of those interviewed were aware that nail polish contains harmful chemicals and 86 percent  were aware that formaldehydes cause health problems.
  • 82.4 percent of CIDESCO members would be interested in using a low-cost protective device if one was available.
  • Availability of safety information from manufacturers was inadequate with MSDSs – Material Safety Data Sheets available from only two of the nine companies included in the survey.

A group of chemicals that have been banned from use in cosmetics in the European Union are collectively called the Toxic Trio, including formaldehyde, toluene and DiButyl Phthalate.

The Toxic Trio is not legally banned in countries outside of the EU, and due to the availability of cheap imports there is a possibility that some imported nail polishes may contain these banned substances.

The study carried out a Gas Chromatograph – Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) analysis on 17  leading nail polish brands, revealing that two out of the 17 nail polish samples tested contained the banned substance toulene.

With the survey revealing that most therapists would be interested in using a low-cost protective device, Sean Byrne constructed a transparent safety enclosure which was connected to a fan and filter to safely extract all vapours.

This demonstrated that by using a safety enclosure you could prevent vapours from escaping into the breathing zones of users, thus protecting users from inhaling toxic chemicals contained in the vapours.

The conclusion and key recommendations from the survey were:

  • There is a need to improve availability and awareness of safety information to nail salon workers in relations to toxic chemicals contained in nail polishes.
  • Nail salons should ensure that workers have access to MSDS sheets for all nail products being used and should train workers on how to protect themselves from exposure to the toxic chemicals they contains.
  • Nail salons should install a safety enclosure or other controls to improve protection of workers.
  • Nail polishes containing banned substances (eg. toluene) are available and should be removed from sale/use in the EU.

The full survey is available to read in CIDESCO’s LINK magazine.

  • The survey by Sean Byrne received 51 responses from beauty therapists around the world.
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