Over the last few years there has been an explosion of nail salons appearing all over the place, including in the middle of shopping centres. At some point we may have walked past a nail salon, only to smell toluene, a paint thinner smell.

We wonder how many people have ever bothered to stop and just ask themselves what this is doing to peoples health?
Not only to the nail technician and the customer but to the people walking by the store.

If you have ever read the back of a bottle of thinners and /or nail polish remover it’s quite clear they suggest you ONLY use these chemicals in well ventilated areas. One bottle stated “Avoid Breathing Fumes”, another bottle said “This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”.

Chemical ingredients in nail care products range from cancer-causing compounds such as formaldehyde to others that disrupt the endocrine system. Researchers have identified toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate – nicknamed the “toxic trio” because of their serious health impacts.

Toluene is a commonly used solvent that creates a smooth finish across the nail and keeps the pigment from separating in the bottle, but can affect the central nervous system and cause reproductive harm. Its major use is as an additive in gasoline.

Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is used as a nail-hardening agent and disinfectant for nail care tools.

Exposure to dibutyl phthalate, added to polishes to provide flexibility, has been linked to reproductive problems. In addition to this trio, there are many other harmful chemicals used in nail care products.

All nail salons we’ve reviewed and 90% of nail salons lack adequate exhaust ventilation or multiple pathways, such as open windows and doors to increase indoor / outdoor air exchange.

Evaporated chemicals from nail products are often trapped inside salons, meaning workers and customers are continuously exposed. Workers’ exposure is amplified: first they experience direct contact with the chemicals in the products, then they and customers continuously breathe in these chemicals within small, poorly ventilated salons.

The poor ventilation provides serious health problems to people passing by too. So that nail salon in the middle of the shopping centre is putting everybody at risk.

Rules and Regulations

As a result of more research being done into nail salon practices and the chemicals used, there’s been a call for Government and EPA regulation of the industry.

All nail salons in Australia are required to have installed and in operation overhead ventilation systems that help remove toxic fumes from the salon by February 28, 2018. This is in order to protect workers, consumers and people walking past nail salons.

Nail salons that do not comply with the new rules and regulations will face being closed after February 28, 2018.

Other Health Risks

Another health risk found in almost every nail salon in Australia is the small, innocuous-looking UV lamp is used to dry and cure a client’s nail polish quickly.

According to Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift, salon customers should be aware of the skin cancer threat.

“Exposing any part of the body to additional artificial sources of UV radiation is likely to add to the risk of skin cancer, particularly if that area of skin has already received excessive UV exposure such as sunburn,” Ms Clift said.

Springwood skin cancer clinic doctor Dora Lee said women should also regularly check the skin beneath their nails – often hidden by polish or artificial nails.

“Melanoma of the nail is an aggressive form of melanoma and often marks like black spots under their nail are mistaken for a blood blister,” Dr Lee said. “It isn’t common but if people are diagnosed with a melanoma there is the potential for them to lose a nail or finger.”