Salon Chemicals & Health Effects
August 2009 (3)

Accredited Environmental Technologies, Inc.         





Nail Salons as your Neighbor or Tenant

Headline: Nail Salon Chemicals Worry Health Officials!

Types of Products

12 Nail Salon Controls


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 Nail Salons as Your Neighbor or Tenant

     The nail salon industry is booming; the number of nail salon workers has tripled over the last ten years to more than 500,000 workers. Like drycleaners, nail salons are frequently located in store fronts or strip malls. Many times nail salons are built-out in previous occupied tenant space without adapting the HVAC system for the vast variety of chemicals used.

Headline: Nail Salon Chemicals Worry Health Officials!

     Most nail salon workers are young females who work long days inhaling chemicals and also contact chemicals which are absorbed through the skin. In general, these chemicals are not regulated by the FDA and contain VOCs or solvents within the cosmetic products they apply or use to remove previously applied cosmetics. These vapors, as well as dusts, are generated close to the breathing zone of the workers and customers.

     Inhalation exposure to these chemicals are proven to cause ocular and upper respiratory irritation and central nervous system effects such as headache, nausea, and dizziness. Some chemicals, such as dibutyl phthalate, is linked to miscarriage and infertility and is banned in Europe. Formaldehyde, used in some products, is a suspected carcinogen. Studies also show there maybe a higher risk of breast cancer and birth defects among nail salon workers.

Types of Products Used




Nail Polish

Enamels, Finishes, Basecoats, Hardeners

Ethylacetate, Butyl acetate, Ethyl alchohol, acetone, xylene, toluene, formaldehyde, dibutylphthalate

Nail Polish Removers

Removing Old Polish

Acetone, Toluene, MEK, Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate

Nail Tips and Wraps

Adhesives and Glues

Acetone, Ethyl Ether, Ethyl Cyanoacrylate


Artificial Nails

MEK, Benzoyl Peroxide, Ethyl Methacrylate, Methyl Methacrylate

12 Nail Salon Controls

What does AET look for during IAQ Investigations?

  1. Right-to-know training for workers to communicate the risk of products used. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be reviewed by ownership with their employees and copies maintained on-site.
  2. Substitution of less toxic, volatile products during purchasing. 30 states have restricted or banned the use of liquid methyl methacrylate monomer; an ingredient used in some artificial nail products.
  3. Providing adequate general ventilation of at least 25 CFM outside air per person in the work space. The nail salon must not share a common HVAC system or duct work with another tenant space.
  4. Installation of downdraft local exhaust ventilation tables vented outdoors at the manicure and pedicure stations. Special attention must also be focused on where products are mixed.
  5. Dispensing products in small containers with openings just large enough for the application brush. Keep lids on product containers sealed during non-use.
  6. Discarding waste properly and promptly. Chemical-soaked gauze pads and cotton balls should be placed in a sealed bag before dispensing of them in a metal trash can. The lid should be self-closing and the trash can liner changed at least daily. Proper storage of chemicals.
  7. Frequent washing of hands. Nitrile safety gloves should be worn that are resistant to solvents. Latex gloves do not protect against solvent exposure.
  8. Good personal hygiene by workers including no eating, drinking or smoking at their work stations or near stored chemicals.
  9. Wearing of safety glasses to protect eyes from sharp fingernail clippings and dust mask during filing of artificial nails. Dust masks do not protect against solvent exposures (only some airborne dusts).
  10. Checking the pressure differential between the nail salon and adjacent tenant space. The nail salon should be at negative pressure in relation to the adjacent space. Walls separating the salon from other business should have no holes, gaps and cracks (including above the drop ceiling).
  11. Reviewing ventilation discharge points from the nail salon for potential re-circulation of solvent vapors in adjacent tenant HVAC systems or windows/doors.
  12. Disposal of unwanted nail polish, waste acetone and other solvent/chemical waste products as hazardous waste. Acetone and other waste products must not be poured down the sink or toilet or put into general trash.


     Acetone, other nail polish removers and nail polishes are flammable. The aforementioned controls are also essential to minimize potential fire hazards. Fire department regulations vary from city to city including how much flammable liquid you are allowed to store at your business and if you are required to store flammables in a fireproof cabinet.

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