Working Healthy

To Mask or Not to Mask?

Explain to your clients that acrylic vapors aren't harmful to them; they just smell bad.

No question about it, says industry chemist Doug Schoon: All nail technicians should wear masks while filing. Although dusts masks have gotten a bad rap in the industry – they’re often associated with salons using MMA liquid – Schoon says most dust masks do zilch to protect users from inhaling MMA vapors. However, he adds, they are very beneficial when used during file.

“Even with manual files you create very small filings that can be inhaled deep into the lungs,” he explains. “The body can clean your lungs, but if you’re putting filings into the lungs faster than that lungs can take care of them, then you’re overexposing your lungs. “Disposable dusts masks are inexpensive (about 16 cents each for the most basic one), light, and easy to put on. You can use them several times and then simply throw them away,” Schoon says. He adds that there are various types of masks, including ones that also block the inhalation of vapors. As for clients’ potential fear when they see you wearing one, Schoon says it’s a simple matter of education. “Tell them you wear the mask because you work with these products all day and that the body isn’t designed to inhale any dust for long periods.”

With some prodding from nail technicians, the Nail Manufacturers Council has modified its “Update for Nail Technicians: Methyl Methacrylate” as of September as to soften its statement about a connection between masks and MMA usage. The brochure now reads, “While not conclusive, those who use these products [MMA] often wear dust masks.”

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