Occupational exposure in Ontario nail salons

Status: In Progress


The primary aim of this study is to characterize worker exposure to a variety of occupational hazards in the nail salon environment, including chemicals, ergonomics and stress.


In recent years, nail salons have become abundant in Ontario. Toronto Public Health estimates that there are over 3400 establishments in the City of Toronto alone that provide nail services. Nail salons are small businesses often with high concentrations in urban settings. Workers are often new immigrants and are predominantly female. The employment circumstances of these workers are precarious; nail salon technicians are a vulnerable working group. We lack quality exposure information despite the fact that there are thousands of workers potentially exposed in Ontario. The hazards to workers in this environment are numerous, including chemicals, musculoskeletal hazards, infections and stress. Nail salon workers, owners and community groups are concerned about health effects from working in this environment; recently there has been high profile public attention in both the US and Canada.


This study will assess exposure to a range of occupational hazards in Ontario nail salons, including:

  • Particulates, formaldehyde, phthalates, acrylates and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air
  • Acrylates on workers’ skin
  • Wet work
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Psychosocial stressors


This study will improve our understanding of occupational exposures in nail salons. This information will be used to assess whether there is hazardous levels of exposure in nail salons. Results will indicate whether the nail salon industry requires support for exposure reduction from the health and safety system in Ontario. Where exposure levels are determined to be potentially problematic, future work can investigate the health of these workers and work to develop and evaluate prevention strategies to reduce exposure. This work will also help to increase awareness of hazardous exposures among nail salon owners and workers.

Progress (updated May 2019):

Data collection is now complete. Analyses of the samples are now underway and expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Some preliminary results from select contaminants are available here.



This study is funded by a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Labour Research Opportunity Program:
Arrandale VH, Diamond ML, Venier M, Melymuk LE, Jantunen LM. Occupational Exposure in Ontario Nail Salons. 2016-2019.


Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centres (PQWCHC)
Healthy Nail Salon Network (HNSN), based in Toronto

Research Team:

Victoria H Arrandale (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, University of Toronto)
D Linn Holness (St. Michaels, University of Toronto)
Miriam L Diamond (University of Toronto)
Tracy Kirkham (University of Toronto)
Kate Jardine (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Sheila Kalenge (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Sadaf Sanaat (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Tammy Khuc (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)