The Use of Protective Equipment among Vietnamese Manicurists: A Pilot Study

By Ho, Kihn; Perrin, Karen M. et al. | International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, October-December 2007 | Go to article overview

The Use of Protective Equipment among Vietnamese Manicurists: A Pilot Study


Ho, Kihn, Perrin, Karen M., Thomas, Kamilah B., International Journal of Health Promotion and Education


Abstract

Objective The demand for nail care has increased in Florida and the employment opportunities that result appeal to Vietnamese immigrants. The benefits of working as a manicurist include short-term training and an income higher than most Vietnamese immigrant workers with limited English proficiency. However, exposure to hazardous chemicals is a concern that needs to be addressed among these workers.

Methods To determine the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, glasses and fans, 34 personal interviews were conducted in nail salons in Tampa, Florida, USA.

Results Manicurists acknowledged the importance of PPE, but only 30 per cent reported the use of a mask. Most others used no protection at all.

Conclusion Manicurists face the risk of being exposed to occupational chemicals. Innovative education programmes are needed to change current practices in nail salons.

Key words: health education, occupational health, personal protective equipment, manicurists, nail technology.

Introduction

The nail technology profession is appealing to newly arrived immigrant women because it requires only six weeks of vocational training and a limited command of the English language. Additionally, the wages and tips exceed the average income of unskilled workers.

Despite the positive aspects of the nail care profession, the daily exposure to hazardous chemicals is a negative consequence to consider. As far back as 1981, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)/Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that long-term exposure to acrylic acid and acrylic powders used in the creation of artificial nails has the potential to cause lung and kidney damage (NIOSH/OSHA 1981). Although no information is currently available on the reproductive effects of such chemicals in humans, embryo toxic and teratogenic effects were observed in animals (NIOSH 1981, Proctor & Hughes 1988).

Another harmful chemical is acetone, a product used to remove nail polish. Acetone vapours as well as the methacrylate dust irritate the eyes and respiratory tract, and may affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract (Hiipakka & Samimi 1987, LoSasso & Rapport 1990, Lozewicz & Davison 1985, Satoh et al 1996, Spencer et al 1997). In 2003, Friedman reported on the potential for individual chemicals to have a synergistic effect when used in combination with the other chemicals (Friedman 2003). Women exposed to solvents on a daily basis require additional concern because the solvents used for artificial fingernails have been connected to early miscarriage and long-term learning disability in children exposed in utero (Laslo-Baker et al 2004). Finally, unintentional contact with methacrylates on the face can cause dermatitis (Rycroft 1977).

To date, there are few published studies related to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in nail salons. Given the absence of literature on the topic, the purpose of this pilot study was to interview manicurists and salon owners to gain an understanding of the use of PPE to reduce the health effects from chemical exposure.

Methods

Seventy nail salons in Tampa, Florida, were contacted by telephone, and 52 nail salon owners agreed to allow their manicurists to participate in the study. All 52 nail salons were owned by Vietnamese women.

Establishment of Trust

It was possible for the researcher to establish trust with the Vietnamese women because he spoke their language and explained the study in terms that the women could understand. He explained that their responses would not be shared with their salon owners, in an effort to protect their employment status. The interviews were conducted in Vietnamese because the researcher noticed that the manicurists and owners were less responsive to questions asked in English, even if they had proficient English language skills.

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