By: David C. Strouss, Esq.

Published on May 12, 2015

The New York Times has published a two-part expose on the health and working conditions of nail salon workers that finds the workers are at risk for miscarriage or their children developing birth defects as a result of their exposure to chemicals at work.  If you’ve ever been in a nail salon you’ve smelled the fumes of the polishes, polish removers, polish hardeners, acrylics and other products, and the clouds of white dust produced as manicurists do their work. The toxic cloud that often accompanies salon work can, in fact, often be smelled without even entering the store. Sadly, the workers in these establishments who are exposed to the chemicals in these products for hours every day are at great risk of a wide variety of health conditions. Perhaps the most frightening health consequence for the workers themselves is the harm caused to their reproductive systems. Documented stories of children born with birth defects and developmental delays, or children lost to miscarriages, are the consequence of unregulated exposure to toxic chemicals. Many common workplace chemicals can cause these horrific effects.  A pioneer in the field and one of the first firms to represent birth defect victims nationwide, Thornton Law Firm has been representing families of children with birth defects caused by exposure to chemicals for decades. If you believe your exposure to chemicals while working in a nail salon caused your child’s birth defect, call us at 888-491-9726 for a free consultation.

The accounts of the nail salon workers health issues in the Times article are awful. One salon worker has had 5 miscarriages. Others have borne children with birth defects, developmental delays, and learning difficulties. One woman’s fingerprints had been almost erased by years of chemical exposure. The Times summarizes the plight of the nail workers they investigated: “[S]tories of illness and tragedy abound at nail salons across the country, of children born slow or “special,” of miscarriages and cancers, of coughs that will not go away and painful skin afflictions.”

Three very dangerous chemicals are ingredients in most nail polish products: toluene, dibutyl phthalate (or DBP) and formaldehyde. They cause a wide variety of health problems. Toluene, an industrial solvent, has been associated with common birth defects including microcephaly, central nervous system dysfunction, and craniofacial and limb anomalies. DBP, a phthalate esther, is believed to cause reproductive toxicity at high exposures for long periods of time – exactly the conditions in which nail salon workers are exposed to DBP. It has been banned by the European Union since 2003. Formaldehyde can cause skin irritation and rashes and is suspected of causing reproductive toxicity. It will be completely banned by the European Union by 2016.

All these chemical exposures have myriad health effects on nail salon workers. In the short term they may suffer respiratory and skin ailments, from coughs and rashes to painful skin afflictions. But it is the more serious medical issues that cause gravest concern. Some of the chemicals are carcinogens – they are known to cause cancer in humans. Others like Toluene, DBP, and formaldehyde, may contribute to low birth-weight babies, abnormal fetal development, birth defects, and miscarriages. Studies have found that cosmetologists have increased rates of death from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Working in a nail salon may be one of the most dangerous jobs in America.

Thornton Law Firm’s birth defect lawyers specialize in helping families whose children have suffered birth defects recover the compensation they deserve. We understand the pain that families face when coping with permanent, life-altering birth defects and the frustration of knowing they did not have to happen. The emotional, financial, and physical strain of birth defects impacts everyone in that family for their whole life. If you believe your exposure to chemicals while working in a nail salon caused your child’s birth defect, please call our birth defect attorneys at 888-491-9726  or tell us your story here via our website. All consultations are free and completely confidential.