The Grand Forks Herald
Monday, February 7, 2000
Fighting for safe nails
Grand Forks nail technician warns of problems
with lower-cost chemical applications
By John Kjorstad
Herald Staff Writer
A Grand Forks woman is spreading the word -- some acrylic nails
can be harmful.
Jessica Zastoupil, a local nail technician, is bringing an industry battle over
a chemical known as MMA (methyl methacrylate) to North Dakota and trying to
create awareness about the potential damage it can cause.
"It's my crusade," Zastoupil said. "I've been trying to
educate my clients about the harm it can cause, because I doubt they would look
for it on their own."
MMA, also known as dental acrylic, was phased out by the beauty industry over
25 years ago but has recently been popping back up at salons across the nation.
In the early 1970s, the federal Food and Drug Administration declared the
chemical to be poisonous when used on nails. However, because the chemical is so
cheap, some discount salons have gone back to it rather than use safer,
more-expensive products such as ethyl methacrylate (EMA).
"This is my industry," Zastoupil said. "(The salons that use
MMA) are giving the rest of us a bad name. I just think the consumer should be
Acrylic nails are sculpted when a nail technician combines a liquid monomer,
such as MMA, with a powder to build up the nail.
"I used to use a very good product that contained MMA, but now that
product has been discontinued," said Janna Johnson of Josef's School of
Hair Design in Fargo. "I now use Tammy Taylor products that I know don't
According to Johnson, most nail technicians are aware of MMA. The chemical
has been widely documented within the nail industry's trade magazines. However,
Johnson herself isn't completely sure about all the problems associated with
"There's something harmful about the smell of (MMA)," Johnson said.
"What else, I'm not really sure. I just know that it is harmful. It's not
The FDA's reasons for initially banning the chemical were reports that said
MMA can rip nails off fingers, cause nerve problems and severe rashes. Over
time, its effects could include damage to kidneys, livers and fetuses. In
addition, manicurists who use MMA can cause problems before even applying the
chemical. Coarse files and drills used in the application of these nails can
cause irreversible damage.
"I've heard a lot of complaints (about discount salons)," Zastoupil
said. "People, teen-agers especially, go to these places because they offer
a lower price. Then they'll come to me and tell me things like 'I left there
"Getting nails should not be painful. I don't think $10 saved is worth
Zastoupil suspects some salons in the Grand Forks area are using MMA for
acrylic nails. However, local beauty salons undergo frequent inspections by the
North Dakota Board of Cosmetology, and MMA is not illegal in North Dakota.
Therefore, it's not a concern during inspection.
"(MMA) is not outlawed in North Dakota," Zastoupil said. "The
FDA has banned its use on nails, but they can't police it and have left it up to
the states to police it."
According to a nationwide survey by a Muncie, Ind., salon owner, 30 states,
including South Dakota and Montana, have laws that do not allow the use of MMA
on nails. Minnesota officially warns its salons about the dangers of MMA, but
does not have any laws against it.
Board studies issue
"Other states have brought up this issue," said Bert Knell,
president of the North Dakota Board of Cosmetology. "We're looking into
Zastoupil sent Knell a letter in January asking her and the board to outlaw
the use of MMA in North Dakota. While Knell hasn't directly responded to
Zastoupil, she said the letter has been forwarded to the board's lawyer, who
advised board members not to talk about it until after the letter has been
Until the state board acts, Zastoupil said, it's up to consumers to protect
Awareness is important, and consumers should always ask their nail
technicians what kinds of chemicals they use, she said.
How to tell the difference
Some ways of telling whether a manicurist is using methyl methacrylate
Because safer chemicals are more expensive, acrylic nails should cost between
$35 and $60 a set. MMA nails usually cost $25 or less.
MMA has a super-strong, sweet, fruity smell that is distinct from other
acrylics, causing some salon technicians to wear a mask.
The manicurist has to severely abrade the surface of the nail until it is
rough enough for the MMA to stick.
MMA nails are almost impossible to get off, even after soaking them in
acetone for hours. Often, the manicurist has to grind the MMA nail down to the
MMA nails are very hard and difficult to file.
Reprinted by without permission,
only because there is no direct link to this !! and I'm afraid they will move it