Evaluation of air quality in nail salons continues

Posted on Behalf of  Lauren Gloekler

As discussed in our previous post, air quality in nail salons can be influenced by several factors, including chemical handling procedures and salon ventilation systems. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has described various engineering controls that can be used to reduce chemical exposures to nail salon workers, such as downdraft ventilated tables, portable source capture exhaust ventilation systems, and any ventilation system that prevents contaminants from entering the breathing zone. According to a 2012 NIOSH survey report, it was concluded that exhaust ventilation systems "have the potential to reduce worker chemical exposure in nail salons by at least 50%."

In response to recent reports of potential air quality issues in nail salons in New York City, a pilot program to measure air quality in New York nail salons was recently introduced by the New York City public advocate and is projected to start in January 2016. Three major chemicals, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde, in addition to other VOCs, will be measured in real-time using sensor chips built into desktop lamps to be installed in a number of nail salons. The data collected by the sensors will be easily accessible online and via smartphone by health officials and salon owners.

Similar devices are also available for other chemicals. For example, researchers at MIT have developed a wireless sensor that can detect gases such as ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and cyclohexane; the sensor is inexpensive and can transmit data directly to a smartphone. Other portable sensors have emerged in the market that can be worn as lanyards, directly clipped onto clothing, or carried in a bag, thereby allowing detailed data regarding air chemical concentrations to be measured with ease. These portable sensors are currently being used to measure PM 2.5, black carbon, and various unspecified air pollutants. Similarly, the vast amounts of data collected by such devices can be accessed by smartphone applications. However, it is unclear whether these devices are appropriate for use in nail salon settings, with respect to reliability and limits of detection.