Objective: To evaluate neuropsychologic performance among women occupationally exposed to products commonly used in nail studios.
Background: Organic solvents and (meth)acrylates commonly used in nail studios have known neurotoxic properties. Few studies have examined the potential for cognitive and neurosensory effects of occupational exposure to these substances, and none has addressed exposure occurring in the cosmetics industry.
Methods: Participants in this study included nail-salon technicians (n = 33) and demographically similar controls who had no known history of exposure to toxic chemicals (n = 35). The groups were administered psychologic, neuropsychologic, and neurosensory tests. Aspects of the workplace environment (e.g., square footage of the salon, adequacy of ventilation, and hours worked) also were assessed.
Results: Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed that the nail technicians performed more poorly than did controls on tests of attention and processing speed (p = 0.015; eta2 = 0.20). Olfaction among the nail technicians was below expected performance based on normative data (p < 0.001). A trend toward poorer performance by the nail technicians was observed on the MANOVA investigating executive functioning; individual tests within that domain may be worthy of future investigation (p s = 0.03–0.10). No significant group differences were observed in the domains of learning and memory, visuospatial ability, or fine motor coordination, or on measures of depression and anxiety. Multiple regression indicated that level of occupational exposure as measured by time worked in the industry, adequacy of ventilation, and workplace size predicted 29% of the variance of performance on attentional tasks (p = 0.04).
Conclusion: Exposure to low-level neurotoxicants common to nail studios may result in mild cognitive and neurosensory changes similar to those observed among solvent-exposed workers in other settings.