Nail Salon Workers Exposed to Unsafe Amounts of Toxic Chemicals

May 5, 2011

Study finds presence of banned compound and harmful levels of toluene

FREMONT, Calif., May, 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — For Dr. Thu Quach at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, it’s personal. Her mother, a Vietnamese immigrant, was a cosmetologist who died of cancer. Now, having devoted a large part of her research to evaluating the use of chemicals in nail salons, Dr. Quach has found that salon workers – who are largely Vietnamese immigrants – are being exposed to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.

The results of the study of California nail salons conducted by Dr. Quach and her research team, which included staff at Asian Health Services, were published online today in the American Journal of Public Health. They showed the presence of methyl methacrylate, a compound banned by the FDA, and that the average level of toluene was double the amount recommended by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) for indoor air.

The scientists also found that levels of total volatile organic compounds, a measure of multiple airborne chemicals, greatly exceeded Cal/EPA’s recommended levels.

“Many workers are experiencing health symptoms related to the chemicals we measured in this study,” said Dr. Quach. “Our concern is that harmful chemicals at unsafe levels in the workplace may also have impacts on the long-term health of nail salon workers, especially if workers are exposed over a long period of time. We plan to continue our studies of these chemicals and their immediate as well as long-term effects on those in this workforce.”

Toluene is commonly associated with acute health symptoms and is believed to cause reproductive problems in high doses and over long-term exposure. It may affect the female endocrine system, which raises concerns for cancers of the reproductive organs.

Methyl methacrylate, which the FDA banned in 1974 from use in cosmetic nail products, causes irritation to the nose and throat, headaches and adverse skin reactions, and has been associated with asthma.

Chemicals in cosmetic products have been the subject of recent national, state and local legislation, including the much publicized San Francisco Nail Salon Recognition ordinance. “This work to better characterize chemicals in salons is key to helping us advocate for policy changes that would ultimately protect workers’ health and safety,” said Julia Liou at Asian Health Services, who also manages the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

For more information and to access recommendations for reducing nail salon workers’ exposures, go to www.cpic.org/Nail-Salon-Toxic-May-2011.

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California

The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is the nation’s premier organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. Its research scientists are leaders in investigating the causes of cancer in large populations to advance the development of prevention-focused interventions. CPIC’s innovative cancer prevention research and cancer education and community partnership programs, together with the Stanford Cancer Center, deliver a comprehensive arsenal for defeating cancer. For more information, visit CPIC’s official website at www.cpic.org.

About Asian Health Services

Asian Health Services is a comprehensive community health center that provides primary health care services to low-income families in Alameda County. Its mission is to serve and advocate for the medically underserved, including the immigrant and refugee Asian community, and to assure equal access to health care services regardless of income, insurance status, language, or culture. For more information, visit Asian Health Services official website at www.asianhealthservices.org.

SOURCE Cancer Prevention Institute of California

Source: newswire

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