When New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for emergency measures to protect the state’s nail salon workers from hazardous conditions this past Sunday, the issue of whether or not that weekly manicure can cause havoc on one’s health was brought back to the forefront.
A recent article in The New York Times discusses the serious health problems nail salon workers are increasingly suffering from, including respiratory problems, miscarriages and multiple myeloma. Coupled with numerous studies that show a link between the chemicals that deliver that gorgeous mani and serious illnesses, it seems safe to say that nail polish can really make you sick and something should be done about it.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
While there is medical research that shows that ingredients such as dibutyl phthalate (DPB for short—it makes nail polish pliable), formaldehyde (found in nail hardeners) and toluene (the solvent that helps polish glide on smoothly) are linked to health issues, there is no definitive research that shows salon workers are actually getting sick from these chemicals. Because there isn’t any conclusive evidence showing that these chemicals directly cause certain health complications, many feel there isn’t enough proof to label them dangerous. “What I hear are insinuations based on ‘linked to,’” said Doug Schoon, co-chairman of the Professional Beauty Association’s Nail Manufacturers Council on Safety. “When we talk about nail polish, there’s no evidence of harm.”
Others tend to disagree, citing the fact that people who work with these chemicals every day are getting sick, which is proof enough. “We know that a lot of the chemicals are very dangerous,” said David Michaels, the assistant labor secretary from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as told to The New York Times. “We don’t need to see the effect in nail salon workers to know that they are dangerous to the workers.”
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