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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Nail Technicians’ Blood Shows Elevated Chemical Levels

Last year, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) implemented new requirements for active ventilation at nail salons. Now, the first study of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in nail technicians, led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers, finds elevated blood levels of toluene and ethyl acetate, but that better ventilation reduces the levels of these compounds in the air that the workers breathe.

The study, published in the journal Indoor Air, uses data collected before the BPHC requirement went into effect.

“Our findings further justify the BPHC’s decision to require better ventilation in all nail salons in the City of Boston to protect the health of nail technicians,” says lead author Dr. Diana Ceballos, assistant professor of environmental health at BUSPH. “There is much we still need to know about safer nail products, use of personal protective equipment, and other measures to further protect nail technicians from these chemicals.”

Dr. Ceballos notes that many nail product brands are eliminating toluene — which can cause eye, respiratory, and skin irritation, as well as nervous-system dysfunction and developmental impairment through extended exposure — from their formulas, and California regulators are working to ban the chemical in nail products outright. Ethyl acetate is still found in most nail polishes and many other nail products, and is associated with eye, skin, nose, and throat irritation.

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