On this blog, we often discuss the devastating consequences of working with or near toxic chemicals. In many cases, the people who are in this dangerous situation are people who work in industrial jobs or at manufacturing plants. However, toxic exposure is not confined to these environments. In fact, the victims of illnesses caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals may be working at a salon just around the corner.

Workers in nail and hair salons have long been concerned about their safety and health due to their often lengthy and concentrated exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. Beauty products designed and manufactured to make people look and feel good often contain chemicals that can cause illnesses which leave victims feeling anything but good.

Research — both formal and anecdotal — has revealed that the people who work in hair and nail salons are developing serious illnesses and health complications at a troubling rate. The reports of miscarriages and babies born with very low birth weight among women who work at salons have been disturbingly high. Further, workers have reportedly developed serious skin and respiratory problems which may stem from their exposure to and inhalation of certain chemicals.

Despite the long-held concern for workers in this cosmetic industry, there doesn’t seem to be much movement in making them safer. Potentially harmful products are still being used widely, chemicals known to be dangerous are still used and efforts to improve oversight and safety practices at these salons have been largely unsuccessful.

People have the right to work in a safe environment and have protection from potentially harmful products, whether they work in an industrial plant or a neighborhood salon. The fact that this issue seems so pervasive but has not been adequately addressed is certainly upsetting and disappointing.

While efforts to improve workplace safety on a larger scale may not be successful in the immediate future, workers still have rights and can take action to secure compensation through a personal injury claim, workers’ compensation claim or both. These actions may not address the larger issue, but they can get individuals the help and support they need to deal with their situation.

Source: The New York Times, “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers,” Sarah Maslin Nir, May 8, 2015