EHS NewsmakersIn an attempt to protect both workers and customers from the hazardous materials used in New York City nail salons, a safety activist is mounting a campaign that would require the city’s 2,000 nail salons to use protective gear and undergo more frequent inspections.

Public Advocate Letitia James wants salons to provide gloves, goggles and face masks for salon technicians.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says that nail salon employees are potentially exposed to dozens of chemicals including acrylates, solvents, and biocides as dusts or vapors. The chemicals are found in polish, nail hardeners, fingernail glue and artificial nails, among other products.

 A small but growing number of studies have examined possible links between nail technicians' work and health outcomes, such as respiratory, neurological, and musculoskeletal effects, as well as other health conditions. Much of the NIOSH-sponsored research to-date has focused on the respiratory system.

OSHA says the chemicals used in nail salons have been associated with headaches, dizziness, eye and lung irritation, liver and kidney damage and birth defects.

The state of New York regulates businesses and has only 27 inspectors for more than 5,000 salons across the state. James wants the city to hire its own inspectors.

She is also proposing a Healthy Nail Salons initiative that would give $500 grants to businesses who opt to use nontoxic products and improve their ventilation systems. A similar program exists in San Francisco.

Many salon workers are immigrant women who make low wages.