The Cost of Beauty: Health Hazards Face by Nail Salon Workers

A nail salon is a place of relaxation for customers, where women and men can enjoy a manicure or pedicure. However, some customers are unaware of the harmful impact the chemicals in the nail products have on the workers and on themselves. Sarah Maslin Nir, a reporter for “The New York Times,” recently wrote an investigative piece titled “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers” that focuses on nail salon workers. This article hones in on the damaging effects the chemicals in the nail products have on the workers’ bodies.

According to Nir, “some ingredients used in nail products have been tied to cancer, miscarriages, lung diseases and other ailments.” Customers are not as affected by the chemicals as workers are because the workers constantly breathe in the chemicals daily. Also, these chemicals are absorbed into the skin if gloves aren’t worn. The Environmental Protection Agency has listed 20 common nail product ingredients that cause health problems. Some common health problems for nail salon workers include warts, loss of fingerprints, breathing problems (asthma), lung conditions, underweight children, and skin disease.

Who is to blame for the health hazards that nail salon workers face on a daily basis? Different parties can be blamed, such as the workers themselves, the federal government, companies that produce nail products, or customers. However, the situation isn’t very black and white, and so the harmful concerns for these workers cannot be blamed on one party.

Some nail salon workers are aware of the harmful impact the nail product chemicals have on their health. For this reason, some nail salon employers and workers encourage young female workers to pursue a different job. Nir notes that some agencies have made pamphlets about the health hazards that nail salon workers could face. Yet, it seems that some workers need to keep this job because they barely speak English, and this is a profession where workers are accepted with limited English. Also, some employers make it difficult for workers to protect themselves by not allowing them to wear gloves or face masks since it’s unattractive for business. This presents workers with a dilemma to either suffer further chemical exposure or work somewhere else.

Even though nail salons are required by the Food and Drug Administration not to use harmful ingredients on customers, the administration doesn’t mandate nail salons to test their products before they are used in the salons. The federal government has some type of policy in place, but it doesn’t fully protect nail salon workers. If the federal government can’t provide sufficient protection for these workers, who can? It also doesn’t help that nail industry officials claim from research that nail products have a minimal amount of hazardous chemicals; without scientific evidence the federal government can’t enforce effective policies. Possibly, the FDA could monitor or conduct studies on nail salon workers’ contact with products to see if chemicals impact their health so they can determine if the chemicals are harmful and make policies accordingly.

Companies that make nail products add chemicals that quicken the nail-drying process, but direct contact with the chemicals doesn’t have a healthy impact on nail salon workers’ bodies. These companies focus on the business practicality of having fast, effective products to satisfy customers. Perhaps they should include natural ingredients in their products. Customers have a difficult role because they provide nail salon workers with a source of income but also endorse the problem by getting manicures and pedicures. Therefore, customers should also use natural nail products.

An effective solution for this problem still needs to be determined. For this solution to be found, each party, including nail salon workers, the federal government, companies that make nail products, and customers, needs to take responsibility for their part in the issue. Also, all parties should collectively decide how to create a solution that strives to meet the requirements of everyone. This isn’t an easy task, and it won’t be completed in a few months or years, but everyone will be able to come to a collective decision one day.

Source: The New York Times

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