Nazila Shakibaei

Project title: Reducing Workers’ Exposures to Chemicals and Dust in Nail Salons Using Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems

Degree: MS | Program: Occupational & Environmental Exposure Sciences (OEES) - no longer offered | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2014 | Faculty advisor: Martin A. Cohen


Nail salon technicians are potentially exposed to a wide variety of hazardous chemicals including acrylates and solvents in the form of dusts or vapors. Nail salon exposures have been evaluated by a small number of studies and the potential adverse health outcomes have been identified. According to the conducted studies, the possible health outcomes may include respiratory, neurological, and musculoskeletal disorders. The main routes of exposure are considered as inhalation and skin contact while the proximity of the technicians’ breathing zone to the chemicals and dust during nail treatments is a reason for concern. Local exhaust ventilation systems can minimize inhalation exposures in nail salons, though few studies have investigated the efficiency of these systems in reducing the exposures.

The goals of this study were one; to evaluate four local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems to determine their effectiveness at eliminating vapors and dust from the breathing zone of nail salon technicians and their clients and two; to assess the overall efficiency of the systems in an isolated static exposure chamber.

Four commercially available LEV systems were evaluated for their capture efficiency. For this purpose, acetone vapor and acrylic nail dust were generated at finger level using realistic work activities in a lab setting and exposures measured in the technician’s breathing zone using real-time air monitoring. The dust was generated by grinding acrylic nails using a standard salon tool and typical position and duration for the work. The technician’s breathing zone dust exposures were measured in real-time using a Thermo PDR-1500. To assess the solvent capture efficiency, a bowl containing acetone was placed on the table for 10 minutes to simulate the exposure during the acrylic nail removal process. Also, the nails were wiped with an acetone-saturated cotton ball. A MiniRAE 2000 photoionization detector was used to measure the acetone exposure during this process. Each scenario was measured with and without the LEV systems to compare the exposures. To assess the overall efficiency of the systems, acetone decay was measured over time using each system and the “no control” scenario. The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) was calculated for each system.

Without controls, the average acetone exposure was between 50 and 330 ppm. The different LEV systems were able to decrease the average exposure by at least 77% and these reductions were statistically significant (p-value<0.001). Without controls, the average dust exposures ranged between 10 and 13 μg/m3. The different LEV systems were also able to reduce the dust exposures by 67-90% (p-value<0.001).

The LEV systems can significantly minimize the workers’ and most likely their clients’ exposures to particles and organic vapors in nail salons. The ability of the systems to reduce technician’s exposures during real use will depend on the systems’ usability and filter capacity.