Nail Salon Table Evaluation

Posted on by Administrator

manicureApproximately 365,000 people are employed in nail salons and other personal care services in the United States. The workforce is largely female (75%) with the industry employing a large number of minority workers (46%) specifically Asian immigrants (38%). These workers generally perform manicures over a workstation—or “nail table”—with the client’s hands resting on the table as they work. The nail table is, therefore, directly below the nail technicians’ breathing zone. Downdraft vented nail tables (VNTs) are modified to vent potential dust or chemical exposures away from the breathing zone before they cross it, thus theoretically reducing potential exposures.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is undertaking a unique research project to examine the effectiveness of different VNTs in removing potential exposures from the work area. NIOSH is requesting that developers, manufacturers, and vendors of VNTs submit new, unused, downdraft VNTs for a free evaluation. The NIOSH research will include an evaluation of VNT airflow and capture characteristics, noise level, ergonomic features, and filter life. Results of the research and recommendations from NIOSH will be communicated back to the submitter with the hope of providing valuable information for maximizing the efficiency of VNTs. NIOSH may also use the information gained through this research to develop educational materials for nail technicians and other publications.

More information on submitting a VNT can be found in the Federal Register Notice. The deadline for receipt of VNTs is June 30, 2009. Given the financial constraints of this project, submitters are responsible for shipping the VNTs to NIOSH for review and for the return shipment. At this time, NIOSH is not accepting VNTs from salons or individuals.

Please forward this post to those who may be interested in this free evaluation of their VNTs. As we begin this research we would also be interested in learning about users’ experiences with VNTs.

—Susan Reutman, Ph.D.

Dr. Reutman is an Epidemiologist, Senior Service Fellow in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART)

Posted on by AdministratorTags

26 comments on “Nail Salon Table Evaluation”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    This is an exposure area I have been curious about. Also, what are the potential effect of these chemicals in these “salons” on the public when entering, waiting to be served, or having the nail procedures performed?

    It is worse than cigarette smoke! I have to wait for my wife in the car.

    Thanks for your comments. Our team is currently seeking area salons in which to measure air levels of potential exposures as part of an ongoing pilot NIOSH air sampling effort. We hope this will help us gain a better understanding of current exposure levels. Several years ago, at the outset of our project, we took a look at some of the past NIOSH and OSHA salon air sampling data. The measurements I saw were below Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulatory limits (where limits were available). Customers presumably have less opportunity for potential exposure than workers as they are in the settings for shorter periods of time. The purpose of the pilot project announced in the Federal Register is to evaluate the extent to which vented nail tables clear the air before it passes the breathing zone of either manicurists or the customers.

    I truly believe these salons need a full evauation for safety and contamination issues in several different areas of their services. Very glad you are pursueing this concern of mine, and for several others who have been affected or noticed potential health matters with this retail public service. I have notice them using same tools over and over for various clients w/o disenfecting them, being too rough on hands and nails and nail beds, just to mention a few concerns.

    Disinfection is very important and nail technicians need to be educated against reusing tools without this step. The focus of this pilot project in the Federal Register is on reducing possible air exposures through the evaluation of vented manicure tables. We thank you for your comments.

    While I fully support this effort by NIOSH to build a better vapor trap, it would also be wonderful if NIOSH could play some role in promoting the elimination of toxics from nail products. Why is it that household paint and printers’ ink have had just such a “makeover” while beauty products—applied to people’s bodies no less—have not? Some years ago NIOSH directly assisted plant in formulating low solvent inks. It could help spur some green chemistry here too and be true to the ideal of eliminating hazards at the source.

    Thanks for sharing this idea. One of the groups within NIOSH that helps to formulate the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is the NORA Services Sector Council. A goal of the NORA Services Council is “to identify the most salient needs of this large and diverse sector. [They] seek to support the most important research, understand the most effective intervention strategies, and learn how to implement those strategies to achieve sustained improvements in workplace practice.” I think your idea is a good one and suggest that you submit it to the Council. The Council can be contacted with related comments through their website. Hope this contact information proves useful.

    Thanks for sharing this idea. One of the groups within NIOSH that helps to formulate the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is the NORA Services Sector Council. A goal of the NORA Services Council is “to identify the most salient needs of this large and diverse sector. [They] seek to support the most important research, understand the most effective intervention strategies, and learn how to implement those strategies to achieve sustained improvements in workplace practice.” I think your idea is a good one and suggest that you submit it to the Council. The Council can be contacted with related comments through their website. Hope this contact information proves useful.

    As a University of Miami graduate student taking an environmental health course, I was wondering if NIOSH considered researching the effectiveness of face guards with VNTs, similar to sneeze guards used at salad bars, and ventilation systems that would redirect vapors from beauty products outdoors. If NOISH is concerned about the presence of vapors from beauty products in the nail technician’s breathing zone, then redirecting the vapors away from the breathing zone with face guards may help (i.e., have hands with manicure treatment placed under the face guard). However, those vapors could then become hazardous to the public. To prevent placing the hazard on the consumer, a ventilation system could take the vapors underneath the face guards outdoors. This ventilation system could also prevent beauty product vapors from accumulating in salons.

    Appreciate your comments about face guards and venting to the outdoors. We are open to evaluating vented nail tables with a face guard if one is submitted and otherwise qualifies. NIOSH researchers have put plans in the public domain for constructing downdraft tables vented to the outdoors in the past. While I consider this ideal, we’ve noted anecdotally that this suggestion was never widely adopted. I’m not sure what all the barriers are, but suspect cost and use of rented spaces have been factors. The vented nail table evaluation in the Federal Register will examine the effectiveness of vented tables on the market and new designs under development.


    As a University of Miami graduate student taking an environmental health course, I was wondering about the feasibility of NIOSH studying the health of those working with VNT’s and those that do not. Specifically, I am interested to learn about the impact an asthmatic condition may have on the effectivness of the VNT. Perhaps the submitter of the VNT can also answer a questionnaire on respiratory health to get a more complete picture. Thank you in advance for your response.

    Thank you for your question. The Federal Register Notice does not request tables from those who use them at this time, rather, we are seeking unused downdraft VNTs from developers, manufacturers, and vendors. Our current focus is on evaluating the VNT characteristics. Hope this helps to clarify.

    I am a public health graduate student in the Department of Epidemiology and Public health at the University of Miami, and I am currently taking a course on environmental health. I find this line of research to be extremely important, and I just have a couple questions. Are there VNTs with a built in filtering technology. Given that redirection of the dust and chemical toxins may be hazardous to the public, a system that filters what is being ventilated so that it comes out cleaner and healthier may be necessary.

    Also, I would be interested to know if there is similar technology to protect hair salon workers (also handling chemical products, sprays, etc), and if NIOSH has implemented studies to test the effectiveness of those ventilation systems.

    The nail tables we will evaluate through this study have filters. We hope to determine the effectiveness of the vented nail table and the filters and, if necessary, provide recommendations on how they may be improved.

    I am not aware of anything other than general room ventillation for hair salons but I’m not the expert in this area.

    Even thought the brands are different, the ingredients are probably the same, therefore, I wonder, if a list of these chemicals, regulated or not, have been prepared for Nail Salons. Where can we find it?

    We address a spanish speaking population, and would like to share the information that you submit.

    I’m a graduate student at University of Miami taking an environmental health course. I tend to go to nail salons often; therefore, I am interested to hear the results of this study.

    I was wondering if certain products are better than others, such as one might release fewer toxins. Do you plan on testing the products at a later point?

    Thank you for your comment. We are looking at exposures faced by workers at nail salons in another study. However, we will not be testing specific products as part of this study.

    The interest on this subject encourages me to share some material we here in Oregon put together recently as part of a partnership with various groups. The nail salon booklet is designed to address worker exposures, and it is available in English and Vietnamese. The collaborative effort also received the 2008 Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America.

    The booklets can be found at

    They are both listed under “Nail Salons” in the alphabetical listing.

    I have read the EPA’s nail salon project and it states that EPA recommends the nail techs should use N95 certified masks however most of the nail salons use ineffective surgical masks or no mask what so ever. That report was done over 2 years ago. Someone or should I say some agency should regulate or should enforce this recommedation. What’s the point of doing all these VNT test or EPA findings and nothings done by the nail salon owners. It’s just waste of tax payer’s money.

    Hi, I’m a Public Health student at Arcadia University and I’m doing a project on assessing the health symptoms and the knowledge of Vietnamese manicurists about chemical exposure and barriers to the reduction of chemical exposure. I saw that, as barriers, many salon owners would cite the lack of finance or that all the work tables were already purchased, therefore no need to invest in new equipment. These vented tables seem to be a good idea, compared to table fans; however, they are quite costly ($279 was the lowest price I found) and could be a financial burden.

    Your project is very interesting and needed, but it seems to be more applicable toward those who haven’t purchased their table yet or at least financially stable enough to remodel their salon. I’m thinking the people who would benefit the most from any source of educational outreach would be the Vietnamese manicurists who are a substantial population within the nail industry with very unique problems and language concerns. I wonder if NIOSH will potentially have any program or certain financial assistance or guidance for Vietnamese salon owners who are more health conscious in remodeling their salon or at least reducing the chemical exposure? I know that in Springfield, MA, there was a model salon endorsed by the EPA, but to make things become a reality is a combination of educational efforts and financial endorsement. Lastly, I would like to pursue in this public health issue further, and if you have any project for an internship within the next few months, I’d gladly accept it. I’m fluent in Vietnamese also.

    Personally, I am a retired hairdresser. I cannot go to a public nail salon because the air in them makes me sick. Also our state of Virginia does not keep tabs on the sanitation in these places. You can catch all kinds of germs and fungus there and a lot of them are not sanitary.There needs to be better protection for the public. I know from experience I caught a bad germ from unsanitary instruments. Also the equipment is not completely sanitized.

    What are the risks of inhaled and absorbed organic solvents, especially for pregnant women? What are the standards for sterilizing instruments used in nail salons? Can a customer ask to see results of clean air or instrument tests?

    In general, there is a growing body of literature which suggests that some solvents may be human reproductive toxicants, responsible for effects including birth defects, low birth weight, miscarriage, and preterm birth. Of the many types of solvents, there is strong evidence that certain solvents, such as the glycol ethers and carbon dilsufide, are reproductive toxicants. The scientific research studies to evaluate reproductive effects of other solvents are often not “smoking guns” conclusively implicating a single solvent, because solvents are so frequently used in mixtures. However, avoidance of solvent exposures where possible during pregnancy appears to be a prudent decision. Please note that NIOSH has a topic page on reproductive health ( This site contains additional information and links regarding work-related reproductive concerns for pregnant women.

    As for nail salons, more information is needed about solvent exposures in these settings. Keep in mind that the exposure faced by workers is generally higher than that faced by the average consumer. We are in the process of locating nail salons where we can measure solvent exposure levels encountered by workers.

    You may be able to find answers to your questions about sterilization procedures and consumer issues from the EPA Nail Salon Project and from the state cosmetology boards.

    I think it is exciting news that NIOSH is undertaking this study. What is the projected timeline for this project?

    Thank you for your interest in our project. The deadline for submitting nail tables for the study was June 30th, 2009. We hope to have the research completed by the end of the year.

Comments are closed.

Post a Comment

Page last reviewed: November 25, 2016
Page last updated: November 25, 2016