The new study, which monitored volatile organic compound (VOC) levels in six Colorado nail salons, is among the first to illustrate the serious health risks prevalent in the industry, where technicians commonly work long hours and report symptoms such as headaches, respiratory difficulties and skin irritation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that long-term exposure to carcinogenic compounds significantly raises the chances of developing cancers such as leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Study - Evidence - Environments - Workers - Policies
"The study provides some of the first hard evidence that these environments are dangerous for workers and that better policies need to be enacted to protect them," said Lupita Montoya, lead author of the research and Research Associate in CU Boulder's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.
Montoya's interest in researching airborne hazards in nail salons dates back nearly a decade. She recalls visiting a salon years ago and being struck by the pungent smell of open chemicals used in gel and acrylic nail applications. The air quality couldn't be very good in such a confined space with poor ventilation, she suspected, drawing on her background as a mechanical engineer.
VOCs - Nail - Products - Studies - Health
But while many of the VOCs from nail products had already been identified, no scientific studies had looked at the long-term health impacts for workers exposed to them day in and day out. Which compounds were in the air at what concentrations? And once released, how could they be removed?
On two separate occasions, Montoya tried to get field tests started, but securing a location proved difficult. Over 90 percent of nail salons nationwide are small businesses, employing a predominantly minority workforce and lacking the resources to adequately address worker health and safety. Fearing consequences, many declined to participate.
Issue - Sensitivity - Approach - Communities - Montoya
"This is an issue that requires tremendous sensitivity and a respectful approach to the communities being served," Montoya said.
In 2017, four undergraduate students...
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