In the United States, there are more than 120,000 nail salons in which workers could be potentially exposed to a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in various procedures. Measuring workers exposure in the field is time-consuming and could be very expensive.
Collaborating with other members of a team, Drs. Claudiu Lungu, associate professor, and Johghwa Oh, assistant professor, both from the department of environmental health sciences at the University of Alabama School of Public Health estimated the VOC levels in the proximity of workers in nail salons through simulating the application process of some popular nail polishes in a laboratory chamber. The worst-case scenario was defined as a worker’s exposure during nail polish application to one set of fingernails every 15 minutes for an 8-hour shift (total nail sets = 32).
Nail polish was applied on paper plates in a flow-controlled test chamber. Air was sampled during the application of five different nail polishes for 8 hours using passive air samplers and the experiment was triplicated. Passive samplers were used for VOCs and formaldehyde.
In this worst-case scenario setting, a total of 17 VOCs were detected, with eight that were found in all the samples. The mean concentration of butyl acetate (161-330 ppm, parts per million) and ethyl acetate (440 ppm) exceeded the threshold limit value (TLV) of 150 ppm and 400 ppm, respectively. Formaldehyde was analyzed separately and the mean concentrations exceeded the TLV of 0.10 ppm in all types of nail polish, ranging from 0.12 ppm to 0.22 ppm.
The authors concluded that occupational safety and health professionals could use these data to increase awareness of workers’ potential exposure to high levels of VOCs in nail salons and recommend practical measures to reduce potential exposures.