Originally published June 5 2015
Toxic ingredients used in nail salons causing manicurists to miscarry
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Responsible for beautifying the hands of countless women nationwide, manicurists are employed at more than 17,000 nail salons around the country. The majority of them are located in New York City, where about 50 salons exist per zip code.
What is considered a form of relaxation and pampering for salon-goers is a tragic way of making a living for many of the manicurists who work tirelessly painting nails, often for 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week.
A report by The New York Times describes how young Asian and Hispanic women, many of them immigrants and unable to speak English, line the street corners of Flushing, Queens, waiting to be picked up and shuttled to various salons across three states.
While thankful for the opportunity to live the American Dream, the manicurists' working conditions are far from desirable, with many of them earning next to nothing as they suffer from physical abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer.
When interviewed about workers' wages, more than 150 salon owners admitted that their employees were paid less than minimum wage, and some of them were not paid at all.
Some nail salon chemicals linked to cancer, abnormal fetal development, reproductive disorders and miscarriagesApart from inadequate pay, manicurists are continually exposed to a range of harmful chemicals routinely used in the salon that result in cancer, miscarriages, and respiratory and skin ailments. Some manicurists who worked in salons while pregnant report having one, two or even three miscarriages.
Others report giving birth to children who suffer from mental retardation, leaving them unable to walk and speak properly.
"The stories have become so common that older manicurists warn women of child-bearing age away from the business, with its potent brew of polishes, solvents, hardeners and glues that nail workers handle daily," reports The Times.
Several studies show that cosmetologists, including manicurists, have elevated rates of death from Hodgkin's disease, underweight babies and multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that begins in the bone marrow's plasma cells.
While several nail salon chemicals have been linked to a multitude of health problems, very few studies have focused specifically on manicurists and their long-term health, opening the door for skepticism.
"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."
However, many health advocates disagree, citing mounting research.
"We know that a lot of the chemicals are very dangerous," said David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "We don't need to see the effect in nail salon workers to know that they are dangerous to the workers."
Dr. Charles Hwu, a cardiologist whose office is based in Flushing, Queens, has treated dozens of nail workers over the course of his career, witnessing horrifyingly similar conditions. Many of these conditions are the type normally seen among smokers, even though many of the nail workers have never smoked.
"Judging from the symptoms with these women, it seems that they are either smokers, secondhand smokers or asthma patients, but they are none of the above," said Hwu. "They work for nail salons."
Some manicurists report skin disorders, likely caused by the constant use of skin sensitizers, which result in excruciating pain upon touching cold or hot items. Others have even lost their fingerprints.
Wearing masks or gloves is discouraged because many employers find it unsightly.
More than 1,300 chemicals are banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union, but fewer than a dozen are prohibited in the U.S.
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which makes nail polish pliable, is listed in Australia as being a reproductive toxicant and is required to be labeled with "may cause harm to the unborn child" and "possible risk of impaired fertility."
The U.S. has no such restrictions on DBP.
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