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Is it bad to inhale nail polish fumes?

Laura breathes this question: Is inhaling nail polish fumes harmful if you’re exposed to them for about 30 minutes or so per week?

The Left Brain exhales this response:

Nearly all the popular brands of nail polishes including Revlon and OPI contain organic solvents and methacrylates. The March 2002 issue of Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, & Behavioral Neurology summarizes a study by Gina LaoSasso, Ph.D et.al, that shows prolonged exposure to nail polish fumes can affect the way your brain works.

The researchers tested 33 nail-salon technicians compared to the same number of demographically similar control subjects (in other words, women who had no exposure to nail polish or other toxic chemicals.) Both groups were given a series of psychologic, neuropsychologic, and neurosensory tests.

Nail Polish Fumes Affect Brain Functions

Their study showed three main results:

  1. The nail technicians performed statistically worse than the control group on tests that measured attention and brain processing speed.
  2. The nail technicians and the control group showed no statistical differences in learning and memory, fine motor coordination, or on measures of depression and anxiety.
  3. The nail technicians’ sense of smell was statistically worse than the control group’s.

Fresh air, not fumes

What does all this mean? Apparently, exposure to enough nail polish fumes can make your brain a little slow and fuzzy. Kinda scary, huh? Unfortunately, the study didn’t provide details on how long this effect lasts so we don’t know if your brain returns to normal once you’ve gotten away from the nail fumes.

And while the study did measure the size of the salon, the amount of ventilation, and the number of hours that the technicians worked, the data can’t be used to predict what would happen at a lower exposure. In other words, if you’re in a nail salon long enough, you may experience these problems. But is 30 minutes a week enough to cause an effect? It doesn’t look like it but clearly more studies are needed. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting plenty of fresh air when you’re getting your nails done!

Nail color, not die!

Note if you happened to be talking about inhaling the fumes on purpose (huffing) we would strongly advise against this. According to this article about huffing

“Death from inhalant abuse can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant abuse from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure.”

Now, it’s not very likely that you will die but it’s certainly not worth the risk.

And in case you weren’t sure, yes, the product pictured above is nail polish for pets.

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