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Nail Salon Employees' Mental Functioning May be Affected by Chemicals

Posted: August 20, 2007

Are the 300,000 nail salon workers in the United States -- many of them Asian -- being negatively affected by the chemicals they use on their customers?

According to the New York Times, two recent studies indicate that the danger does exist and may affect mental acuity, both in those who work in nail salons and those whose mothers did.

A Wayne State University study found that prolonged work in nail salons was associated with poor performance on a variety of tests to determine a person's attention acuity, mental processing speed, memory and verbal learning, the Times reports. And another study by University of Toronto scientists found similar problems in children who were prenatally exposed.

"The intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1,200 times what it would be for the average American," Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the non-profit Environmental Working Group, told the newspaper. "Immigrant women often don't understand the safety information."

Three compounds long used in nail salons -- toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate -- are on the denagrous list, the Times reports. Toluene is a colorless solvent, formaldehyde helps harden nails and dibutyl phthalate makes nail polish flexible. One company that makes the chemicals, OPI Products, has said it would begin removing toluene and dibutyl phthalate from its product list, the newspaper said.

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