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"I have no real nails
now as a result of it"
Strickland, Channel 2's consumer investigator
February 18, 2002 -- A
Channel 2 consumer investigation uncovers how women across Georgia are
being exposed to a potentially dangerous chemical each time they get
their nails done.
The substance is called MMA. The nail industry admits its unsafe.
Federal regulators call it hazardous, yet Channel 2 found evidence
that the chemical is a mainstay in Georgia's discount nail salons.
The feds have known of the danger for 25 years. That's when they first
took action against methyl methacrylate (MMA), an acrylic bonding
agent so strong it's perfect to make dentures and to adhere to
But use it to make fake nails -- that's risky. Just the ask the woman
who found out too late. Her beautiful discount manicure would cost
more than she ever imagined.
"I was like, hey, I'll have beautiful, long, perfectly smooth
nails," said Randi Shuford. "Pure vanity."
She is a writer. She says her experience with methyl methacrylate
would be a horror story. You can see why.
It makes beautiful acrylic nails, but there's a big cost to it.
Shuford says the problems started soon after she got acrylic nails at
a discount salon.
"My nails started hurting and my skin was getting sore and was
turning white," she said.
After two months of pain she had the fakes pried off. Her real nails
had become paper thin and brittle.
"I have no real nails now as a result of it," Shuford said.
Acryllic nails start as a paste made of powder and liquid chemicals.
Nail technician Barbara Patterson says when the liquid is MMA, the
resulting nails bond too firmly.
"The acryllic nail won't release," Patterson said. "If
this were an MMA nail when she catches a nail, it will stay there and
pull the nail itself away from the nail bed."
The result would be very painful.
MMA nails can leave deep ridges in the natural nail below.
"And it is a very dangerous chemical and a lot f people don't
know they're using it," said Shuford.
The FDA first warned about MMA in 1974, calling it a poisonous and
deleterious substance. The industry quickly responded with new, safer
chemicals, so the feds never issued an outright ban.
But the safer chemical Patterson uses is $300 a gallon compared to the
MMA product at $50 dollars per gallon.
"I went for the easiest and the cheapest, and that wasn't a very
good idea," said Shuford.
Salon owner An Thung was so confident that he doesn't use the cheaper
MMA, he gave us a sample to prove his chemical was MMA free.
Methyl methacrylate is so nasty, scientists at Georgia Tech wouldn't
even test for it, for fear it would contaminate their equipment. They
sent us to a sophisticated testing lab in St. Louis, Mo.
Scientists needed less than a drop. It took only moments in their
high-tech furnace to separate and identify what it was.
Methyl methacrylate was found.
The chemical was traced back to a supply house on Buford Highway.
The owner says he's trying to wean hundreds of salons off MMA, but
makes no apologies for selling it.
"I can tell you it's not good for you to use it, but if you
choose to, who am I to stop you?" asks Long Truong La City Nail
The number of licensed nail salons in Georgia has now skyrocketed to
more than 1,700. All that competition makes a cheap chemical like MMA
Still, some states, including nearby Tennessee, have passed their own
rules against MMA. So, where does Georgia stand?
Even though the FDA has called it a hazardous substance, it's not been
banned. Tomorrow, learn why MMA is still legal here and what
regulators are waiting for. Also, learn some of the MMA red flags to
look for in your favorite salon.
Dangerous nail liquid is widely used
By Jim Strickland,
Channel 2 Action News consumer investigator
February 19, 2002 -- A Channel 2
consumer investigation discovered those long and lovely acrylic nails may come
with a heavy price.
The investigation found evidence that discount nail salons across Georgia are
using a chemical deemed poisonous by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Why won't state regulators do anything about it?
It's not like the state isn't trying. Part of the problem is that MMA, deemed
to be a poison, looks and smells a lot like another chemical, which is
perfectly safe. Channel 2 had to go half way across the country just to tell
which was which.
At the La City Nail Supply store on Buford Highway, salons from Georgia,
Alabama, North Carolina, even Virginia, stock up on equipment and chemicals.
Channel 2 visited the store.
Asked if he knew the product used to make acrylic nails is made from the
chemical methyl methacrylate (MMA), the owner, Long Truong, said
"My nails were produced with MMA," said Randi Shuford. She says the
ruby liquid in her fake nails destroyed her real nails. "You're stuck
with nails that look even worse than when you got the acrylics." Shuford
said she did it out of vanity.
The Nail Manufacturers' Council says use of MMA is unsafe and unwise. The FDA
calls it a poisonous and deleterious substance. Yet, in Georgia, sources say
its use is widespread and it's legal.
"Even though the FDA has called it a hazardous substance, it's not been
banned," said Molly Fleeman, who directs the state responsible for
regulating 1,700 Georgia nail salons. She says state inspectors who routinely
check sanitation can do little about MMA.
State regulators say they can't crack down on methyl methacrylate until they
come up with a way to prove salons are using it.
To get proof, Channel 2 had to go to a sophisticated testing lab in St. Louis.
"Basically, the only component we found in your sample was methyl
methacrylate," said Dr. David Dowell. He says his test is fool proof, but
also expensive. Testing an eyedropper full of ruby liquid cost $800.
"Everybody doesn't have access to instruments like this so I'm not sure
if there is a spot test," Dr. Dowell said. "I would be surprised if
there is an accurate spot test for this type of thing."
At the salon where Randi Shuford got her nails, the owner said he didn't know
what was in ruby.
So, how are you supposed to know?
Ask to see the original container and look for the ingredient ethyl
methacrylate. EMA is the safer cousin to MMA.
Bobbi Trauner's been getting EMA nails for 18 years. Yet in a pinch, she went
to a suspected MMA nail shop, and saw another telltale sign.
"The first thing I noticed was everyone was wearing masks and it made me
wonder why I wasn't wearing a mask," Trauner.
MMA nails are so hard, nail technicians commonly use drills to shape them and
wear masks because of the dust. EMA nails are easily hand-finished, leaving
the natural nail unscathed.
That's a stark contrast to Randi Shuford's fingers.
"It's horrifying to think people are using something that's turn your
nails into jelly," said Shuford.