As intense public scrutiny of nail salons (and the chemicals, instruments, and sanitation procedures the salons use to serve clients) continues, some states have begun to legislate against the use of methyl methacrylate (MMA). Many states, including Arkansas, Michigan, and Ohio, have participated in campaigns to make consumers more aware of the dangers of MMA and to make sure nail technicians in these states can’t use the chemical on clients’ nails anymore.
In 1997, the Ohio board voted to place MMA on its list of non-approved chemicals. “All products for use on nails must be approved by the state board,” explains David Williamson, executive director of the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology, who adds that the list of chemicals is in strict accordance with the policies and practices of the FDA. Williamson says that Ohio inspectors will be looking for any indication of MMA and will cite salons using the product. Salons that are found using MMA will be given a warning and revisited within 90 days. On the next visit, if MMA is present, the salon and/or technicians can be fined and licenses suspended. The state has not levied an outright ban on MMA products because it is waiting for further definitive action by the FDA. “Our position is based on the FDA’s current stance on MMA,” says Williamson.
The Stale Board of Cosmetology in Michigan held a public meeting on April 30, which determined a need to ban MMA. Legislation has already been drafted to outlaw the substance for use on nails. As of press time, the bill was being reviewed by the state’s Office for Regulatory Reform. If approved, it will go to the governor’s office for his signature. “We consider it policy now, but we have no legal standing [to enforce these rules] until it becomes law,” explains Judith Dennis, licensing administrator for the state board, who adds that many salons have already been notified about the impending legislation via their license renewal. Other states are handling MMA on a case-by-case basis. “We are pursuing MMA on a complaint-generated basis,” explains Debra Norton, director of the Arkansas state board. “When we sent out license renewals, we told nail technicians that we had read about the problems associated with MMA and asked them to advise their clients. We also asked them to call us if they find MMA on a client’s nails or hear about a salon using the chemical, but we haven’t received many calls.”
These states have cited one major problem in the fight against MMA: detection. “Many people transfer it to other containers, so it is hard to detect unless it’s obvious by the smell or we receive a complaint,” says Dennis. Inspectors in Ohio have the same problem. “My inspectors are crying for something that they can test with,” says Williamson. “When you smell a bottle of monomer to see if it is EMA or MMA, there is room for error. It is much better to have a test that can determine if MMA is present with much higher accuracy.” The recently released OPI Products MMA Testing Kit was available to state boards August 1 (as of press time) and can determine if MMA is present in liquid monomer. The kit is much less expensive than traditional lab tests, according to OPI, and will give inspectors concrete evidence by which to cite or fine salons.
Some states face other problems. The Oregon state board is currently facing race issues in relationship to the use of MMA in some Asian-owned salons. “The board is a little uneasy about the issue because it has been alleged that there is an intention to discriminate against the Asian community,” says Larry Peck of the Oregon Board of Barbers & Hairdressers. “Some of these salons use products that contain MMA, but claim that they didn’t know it was in there. If they are buying a national brand from national distributors, there is usually no problem, but if they buy from regional suppliers, you just don’t know. This whole area is just a mess.” Peck says the board could take a stronger position and ban the distribution of MMA products, but it feels that it’s the FDA’s jurisdiction and is waiting for its next move.