JANUARY 28, 2002 12:42 EST 

Nail Salons May Use Irritant Glue

LOS ANGELES (AP) Many discount manicure salons have begun using an inexpensive glue for acrylic fingernails that federal regulators say could expose wearers to fungal infections and nail deformities.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about methyl methacrylate in acrylic fingernail glue 26 years ago, but never formally regulated the chemical because most salons voluntarily stopped using it.

MMA-based bonding fluid, which can cost as little as $15 a gallon, was replaced by what is considered a safer glue that costs about $215 a gallon.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that many discount salons have begun using MMA again to keep prices low.

MMA makers say the product is safe. It's primarily used in making Plexiglas and Lucite, in dentistry and to bind a prosthesis to the bone in joint replacement surgery.

"I haven't heard from anyone that our product hurt them,'' said Jennifer Hajali, vice president of CA Chemists, an Anaheim manufacturer that produces MMA. ``This has become a hot topic in the last two years because competition from discount salons is so fierce.''

Thirty states regulate the use of MMA in nails, but the rules are mostly ineffectual. California, which banned MMA use in nail salons in 1993, has only 15 inspectors for 9,348 salons, and violators face fines of only $25.

The 1974 FDA warning was based on complaints about nail fungus, a loosening of natural nails and discolorations, but MMA manufacturers say the product has changed since then and is now less harsh.

John Bailey, director of the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, said the agency is aware of new concerns, but has not yet taken any action to investigate.

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