Q&A

Can acetone cause liver cancer or cirrhosis?

Q.

A gentleman in the hazardous chemical industry told me that acetone can cause liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. He said the chemical eats through the nail tip and soaks through membranes. How susceptible to liver damage are nail technicians who work around this chemical all day, five days a week? What are the long-term health effects of acetone use? Is there a less toxic chemical that technicians can use on a daily basis?

A.

Nail technicians are exposed to acetone for brief periods throughout the day to this chemical. Even if a nail technician were to inhale this chemical at high concentrations throughout each day, she would not suffer permanent damage. If there is improper ventilation in the salon, a nail technician may experience warning signs of overexposure to acetone, such as coughing and eye and throat irritation.

Acetone does not reach the nail bed in any substantial amount. Acetone does not eat through the nail; it evaporates too quickly from the nail. Even the small amount of acetone that may reach the nail bed evaporates instantly through the nail plate.

The main adverse effect of acetone is that it dries out the nail plate. The greatest inherent danger of acetone is its flammability. Used near a flame, acetone can cause a fire, and even an explosion. It should never be used around burning matches or cigarettes.

If the nail technician heeds these safety admonitions, there should be no short- or-long-term health hazard from acetone use for her or her clients. Unfortunately, no other chemicals remove nail enamel as quickly and effectively as acetone. Complete safety information about acetone can be obtained by re-questing the MSDS from the polish remover manufacturer.-Paul Kechijian, M.D.

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