SCRATCH NAIL-SALON TOXIN USE
By KIRSTEN DANIS
ALBANY - A state committee has
voted to ban a poisonous chemical used in many nail salons on the heels of a
Post report that the toxin is making a comeback in New York.
But one official fears lack of enforcement muscle will mean the ban won't
protect unsuspecting customers.
"This industry has carte blanche to do anything it wants because we
don't police [it]," said Karen Lessler, a Suffolk County manicurist and
member of the state Appearance Enhancement Advisory Committee.
The committee, which oversees education and licensing of the beauty industry,
voted unanimously Friday to bar methyl methacrylate from New York salons.
MMA, a liquid used to build artificial acrylic nails, was virtually
eliminated from the industry 25 years ago by a federal court action.
But The Post reported April 18 that the perilous poison is now being used in
discount salons because it costs only 25 percent as much as safer chemicals and
creates rock-hard, unbreakable fake nails.
The ban will not go into effect until the state Department of State collects
enough proof that MMA is harmful - and the secretary of state and the governor's
Office on Regulatory Reform sign off on it.
The process is expected to take several months.
MMA can rip nails off fingers, cause severe rashes and nerve problems and,
over the long term, damage livers, kidneys and fetuses, according to federal
The chemical is sold to dental and heavy industry suppliers, who illegally
divert it to beauty shops.
"Arlene," a 50-year-old Manhattan business owner who asked that her
real name not be used in this article, blames MMA for nails that peel off almost
as soon as they grow in - and for unexplained liver damage.
"The manicurist was saying they used dental supplies and automotive
supplies and I didn't think twice about it," said Arlene, who believes she
was exposed to the chemical in a Los Angeles salon 15 years ago.
Tracy Sullivan, a Seymour, Conn., bartender, endured an itchy, painful rash
all over her body for a year - and never connected it with her fake nails until
she read about MMA in The Post.
"I just thought I had an allergic reaction to something - but I never
knew what it was," said Sullivan, 24.
After the vote Friday, Lessler complained the department's 15 inspectors
won't be able to make a dent in MMA use.
Daniel Shapiro, assistant director of special projects for the state Division
of Licensing, said angry customers and competitors will report MMA salons.
The division and the state Department of Health have been investigating MMA
for several months.
The substance is more popular - but not standard - in beauty shops run by
Koreans and Vietnamese, two groups that have cornered the discount-nail market.
An Sik Nam, president of The Korean American Nail Salon Association of New
York, said he recently started spreading word about the dangers of the chemical
in the Korean media.
"Most don't use it, and if they do use it, they didn't know it was
poison," Nam said.
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