Few people likely realize that workers in the cosmetology industry, such as nail salon workers, face some of the same hazards as workers in the oil fields and those who work in auto garages. In all three of these industries, exposure to BTEX — benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes — can cause workplace injuries with long-term, life-threatening consequences. Nail technicians in Oklahoma and across the country are exposed to these harmful compounds as they breathe in the salon air for hours each day.
The dangers arise from the noxious odors emanating from the polishes, removers and acrylic nails that fill the air in salons with volatile organic compounds that become gases and vapors, easily breathed in by workers. Although the nail salon customers are exposed to the same VOCs, they spend only short periods of time in nail salons. Researchers have linked the exposure to headaches, reproductive problems, respiratory irritation, eye and skin irritation and even cancer.
No related Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards exist for nail salons, and researchers suggest proper ventilation, nitrile gloves and charcoal face masks as protection. Because activated carbon removes dangerous VOCs from the air, experiments are underway to embed art pieces with the chemical-absorbing materials. Hanging these art pieces on the walls of salons can limit the risks posed by the vapors and fumes.
Although workers in Oklahoma are typically eligible for state-regulated workers’ compensation benefits, it could be challenging to prove workplace injuries or illnesses that develop gradually to be work-related. In many cases, the severity of the condition only becomes evident after 10 to 20 years of exposure. Fortunately, no one needs to fight this battle without help. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can provide the necessary support and guidance in pursuit of maximum compensation under applicable laws.