Acrylates (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, and methyl methacrylate) are ingredients found in artificial nail products. We are mainly exposed to these chemicals through inhalation or skin contact. Despite evidence of adverse skin, eye, and throat reactions to these chemicals, they continue to be used in nail products.

FOUND IN: Artificial Nail Products (Acrylic Nails, Nail Enhancing Polishes)[1]

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: ethyl acrylate: Acrylic acid ethyl ester, ethyl propenoate, EA; ethyl methacrylate: ethyl methacrylate, ethyl ester, methacrylic acid, ethyl ester,  ethyl 2-methyl-2-propenoate, EMA; methyl methacrylate: Methacrylate monomer, Methyl ester of methacrylic acid, methyl-2-methyl-2-propenoate, MMA

WHAT ARE ACRYLATES? Acrylates are derived from acrylic acid and are commonly found in cosmetic nail preparations. Ethyl acrylate acts as an adhesive to apply artificial nails and eyelashes.[2,3] Ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate allow sculptured artificial nails to mold and adhere to the natural nail plate.[4] MORE...

Direct contact and inhalation are the main hazardous forms of contact, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate vapors may block air vents.[5,6,7,8] Proper ventilation in nail salons can reduce ethyl methacrylate levels by 90 percent.[9]

A little history:

In the early 1970s, methyl methacrylate was the primary monomer, or molecule, used in acrylic nails.[10] In response to consumer complaints of severe nail and skin reactions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded it was a “poisonous and deleterious substance” and decided to seize and recall nail products containing 100 percent liquid methyl methacrylate in 1974.[11] Ethyl methacrylate became and remains the main ingredient. In most artificial nail products, ethyl methacrylate makes up 90% of the products.[12] It is found in both professional products and home kits.[13,14] 

HEALTH CONCERNS: Health concerns include cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, cellular and neurological damage and irritation. MORE...

Cancer: Government regulations and occupational studies have linked ethyl acrylate and methyl methacrylate to cancer. The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classify ethyl acrylate as a possible human carcinogen.[15,16]

Workers in acrylic sheet manufacturing exposed to both high and low levels of methyl methacrylate were at an increased risk of colorectal cancer.[17]Methyl methacrylate is a widely used adhesive in orthopedic and surgery material and equipment. Chronically exposed orthopedic surgeons had increased cancer mortality and younger age at death compared to less exposed general surgeons.[18]

Developmental and reproductive toxicity: Ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate are linked to malformed skeletons and limbs in the offspring of exposed rats. Higher doses were linked to more malformations.[19] Male rat testosterone levels fluctuated after methyl methacrylate exposure, and the cells of the seminal vesicles (organs involved in semen production) were reduced in size and number.[20,21]

Organ-system toxicity: Organs throughout the body, but especially the respiratory system, are vulnerable to ethyl acrylate and methyl methacrylate.

Methyl methacrylate inhalation is associated with lung disease[22] and damage to nasal passages, liver, and kidneys.[23] Another study found lung damage and disease in rats after inhaling methyl methacrylate for 30 hours a week for 4 weeks.[24]

Ethyl acrylate is also toxic to the lungs, liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system.[25]

Cellular and Neurological Damage: All three chemicals damage cells and the genetic information contained in them.[26,27, 28] They also stimulate cell death in mouse lymphoma cells.[29]

Furthermore, ethyl methacrylate interferes with cell communication in the brain and spinal cord of rats.[30] Studies showed that women and men with occupational exposure to methyl methacrylate presented symptoms of generalized and peripheral nerve damage.[31,32]

Irritation: All three chemicals are skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritants. Case studies of workers exposed to ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate report workplace-induced asthma.[33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38] Repeated or prolonged contact with all three chemicals can result in skin sensitization, which is the possibility of developing a skin allergy to the chemical. [39, 40, 41]

Both receiving and applying acrylate-containing artificial nails have caused allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).[42, 43] ACD damages and deforms nails and inflames skin on fingers, hands, eyelids, and face.[44] Once someone becomes sensitized to acrylates, it is incredibly difficult to effectively protect against exposure and, as a result, adverse reactions.

Artificial nail products contain a soup of these chemicals, which can lead to multiple allergies by cross-sensitizing and cross-reacting with each other.[45] Ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate are especially strong sensitizers. [46, 47] Sensitization to one acrylic compound can increase sensitivity to one or more other acrylates and exacerbate allergic reactions.[48, 49] Re-exposure to these chemicals in other settings, such as during dental surgery, can trigger allergic reactions.[50] 

REGULATIONS: Although the Food and Drug Administration banned 100 percent liquid methyl methacrylate in 1974, no specific regulations prohibit its use at concentrations lower than 100 percent in cosmetic products.[51] Across the United States, at least 32 states ban the professional use of methyl methacrylate in nail salons.[52] Still, the FDA found trace amounts in 15 to 25 random samples of the chemical in powdered form and reports that it continues to be found in artificial nail products.[53, 54] Air samples from 12 randomly selected nail salons in Salt Lake City County in Utah, which banned methyl methacrylate, found 58 percent of the salons had methyl methacrylate circulating in the air.[55] Considering the corrosive and skin sensitizing properties of ethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate, the Methacrylate Producers Association, Inc. has stated that these chemicals are not appropriate for artificial nail products.[56] Yet, they continue to be ingredients.[57]

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: All; acrylic nail consumers, nail technicians; dental technicians, workers manufacturing acrylate-containing products

HOW TO AVOID: Avoid using artificial nails unless you know that they do not contain acrylates. Nail technicians should use ventilated manicure tables and wear appropriate safety masks and protective gloves. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators (e.g. dust masks) and nitrile gloves .[58]

References

[1] NICNAS. Inventory multi-tiered assessment and prioritization for 2-propenoic acid, 2-methyl-,methyl ester. Australian Department of Health and Ageing. 2013. Available online: http://www.nicnas.gov.au/chemical-information/imap-assessments/imap-assessment-details?assessment_id=185.

[2] Boehncke W, Schmitt M, Zollner T, Hensel O. Nail polish allergy. An important differential diagnosis in contact dermatitis. Dtsch Med Wochenschr, vol. 122, no. 27, pp 849-852, 1997.

[3] Kim Y, Chung J. Bilateral eyelid contact dermatitis and toxic conjunctivitis due to acrylate-containing glue. Ann Dermatol., vol. 26, no. 4, pp 543-544, 2014.

[4] Erdmann S, Sachs B, Merk H. Adverse reactions to sculptured nails. Allergy, vol. 56, no. 6, pp 581-582, 2001.

[5] Dillingham E, Lawrence W, Autian J. Acrylate and methacrylate esters: relationship of hemolytic activity and in vivo toxicity. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, vol. 17, pp 945-957, 1983.

[6] Williams G, Iatropoulos M. Evaluation of potential human carcinogenicity of the synthetic monomer ethyl acrylate. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, vol. 53, no. 1, pp 6-15, 2009.

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Ethyl Methacrylate. Available online:

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0272.html

[8] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Methyl Methacrylate. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0426.html

[9] Spencer A, Estill C, McCammon J, Mickelsen R, Johnston O. Control of ethyl methacrylate exposures during the application of artificial  fingernails. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J. vol. 58, pp 214–218, 1997.

[10] Spencer A, Estill C, McCammon J, Mickelsen R, Johnston O. Control of ethyl methacrylate exposures during the application of artificial  fingernails. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J. vol. 58, pp 214–218, 1997.

[11] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Cosmetics Safety Q&A: prohibited ingredients. FDA database. Washington, DC: FDA. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm167234.htm

[12] American Journal of Toxicology. Final report of the safety assessment of methacrylate ester monomers used in nail enhancement products. International Journal of Toxicology, vol. 24, pp 53-100, 2005.

[13] Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Amended final report on the safety assessment of ethyl methacrylate. Int J Toxicol, vol. 21, supplement 1, pp 63-79, 2002.

[14] American Beauty Association/Nail Manufacturers Council. Butyl, Isobutyl, and Lauryl Methacrylate. Washington DC, pp 34, 2001.

[15] International Agency for Research on Cancer. Ethyl Acrylate. IARC Monographs, supplement 7, pp 1447-1457, 1999. Available online: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol71/mono71-99.pdf

[16] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ethyl Acrylate. Technology Transfer Network, Air Toxics Web Site, 2013. Available online: http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/ethylacr.html#ref2

[17] Tomenson J, Carpenter A, Pemberton M. Critical review of the epidemiology literature on the potential cancer risks of methyl methacrylate. Int Arch Occup Environ Health, vol. 78, no. 8, pp 603-612, 2005.

[18] Diaz J. Proportionate cancer mortality in methyl methacrylate-exposed orthopedic surgeons compared to general surgeons. J Med Toxicol., vol. 7, no. 2 , pp 125-132. Available online: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3724436/

[19] Singh A, Lawrence W, Autian J. Embryonic-fetal toxicity and teratogenic effects of a group of methacrylates esters in rats. J. Dent. Res, vol. 51, pp 1632-1638, 1972.

[20] Fakhouri J, Aftimos G, Hilal G, Sarkis R. The effects of methyl methacrylate monomer on testosterone level in male rats. An experimental study. J Med. Liban, vol. 56, no. 1, 11-15, 2008.

[21] Fakhouri J, Sarkis R, Chababi-Atallah M, Aftimos G. Toxic effects of methyl methacrylate monomer on male genital tissues. In vitro study in rats. J Med Liban., vol. 56, no. 1, 22-26, 2008.

[22] Aydin O, Attila G, Dogan A, Aydin M, Canacankatan N, Kanik A. The effects of methyl methacrylate on nasal cavity, lung, and antioxidant system (an experimental inhalation study). Toxicological Pathology, vol. 30, no. 3, pp 350-356, 2002.

[23] European Chemicals Bureau. Methyl Methacrylate: European Union Risk Assessment Report, vol. 22, 1-180, 2002. Available online: http://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/7c9a0eb6-9b7f-4fd6-846b-d480e8e0003d

[24] Aydin O, Attila G, Dogan A, Aydin M, Canacankatan N, Kanik A. The effects of methyl methacrylate on nasal cavity, lung, and antioxidant system (an experimental inhalation study). Toxicological Pathology, vol. 30, no. 3, pp 350-356, 2002.

[25] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Ethyl Acrylate. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/pel88/140-88.html

[26] Moore M, Amtower A, Doerr C, Brock K, Dearfield K. Genotoxicity of acrylic acid, methyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, methyl methacrylate, and ethyl methacrylate in L5178Y mouse lymphoma cells. Envrion. Mol Mutagen., 11, 49-63, 1988.

[27] European Chemicals Bureau. Methyl Methacrylate: European Union Risk Assessment Report, vol. 22, 1-180, 2002. Available online: http://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/7c9a0eb6-9b7f-4fd6-846b-d480e8e0003d

[28] LoPachin R, Gavin T. Molecular mechanisms of acrylamide neurotoxicity: lessons learned from organic chemistry. Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 120, no. 12, pp 1650-1657, 2012.

[29] Moore M, Amtower A, Doerr C, Brock K, Dearfield K. Genotoxicity of acrylic acid, methyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, methyl methacrylate, and ethyl methacrylate in L5178Y mouse lymphoma cells. Envrion. Mol Mutagen., 11, 49-63, 1988.

[30] Abou-Donia M, et al. Neurotoxicity of ethyl methacrylate in rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A., vol. 59, no. 2, pp 97-118, 2000.

[31] Sadoh D, Sharief M, Howard R. Case study: occupational exposure to methyl methacrylate monomer induces generalized neuropathy in a dental technician. British Dental Journal, vol. 186, pp 380-381, 1990.

[32] Slodownik D, Williams D, Tate B. Prolonged paresthesia due to sculptured acrylic nails. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 56, pp 298-299, 2007.

[33] Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Amended final report on the safety assessment of ethyl methacrylate. Int J Toxicol, vol. 21, supplement 1, pp 63-79, 2002.

[34] Wittczak T, Palczynski C, Szulc B, Giorski P. Bronchial asthma with inflammation of the nose mucous membrane induced by occupational exposure to methyl methacrylate in a dental technician. Medycyna Pracy, vol. 47, pp 259-266, 1996.

[35] Lozewicz S, et al. Occupational asthma due to methyl methacrylate and cyanoacrylates. Thorax, vol. 40, pp 836-839, 1985. Available online: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1020561/pdf/thorax00239-0036.pdf

[36] Spencer A, Estill C, McCammon J, Mickelsen L, Johnston O. Control of ethyl methacrylate exposures during the application of artificial fingernails. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, vol. 58, no. 3, pp 214-218, 1997.

[37] Sauni R, Kauppi P, Alanko K, Henriks-Eckerman M, Tuppurainen M, Hannu T. Occupational asthma caused by sculptured nails containing methacrylates. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 51, pp 968-974, 2008.

[38] Henriks-Eckerman M, Korva M. Exposure to airborne methacrylates in nail salons. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, vol. 9, pp D148-D152, 2012.

[39] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Ethyl Methacrylate. Available online:

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0272.html

[40] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Methyl Methacrylate. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0300.html

[41] Dearman R, Betts C, Farr C, McLaughlin J, Berdasco N, Wiench K, Kimber I. Comparative analysis of skin sensitization potency of acrylates (methyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, and ethylhexyl acrylate) using the local lymph node assay. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 57, pp 242-247, 2007.

[42] Freeman S, Lee M-S, Gudmundsen K. Adverse contact reactions to sculptured acrylic nails: 4 case reports and a literature review. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 33, pp 381-385, 1995.

[43] Ramos L, Cabral R, Goncalo M. Allergic contact dermatitis caused by acrylates and methacrylates – a 7-year study. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 71, pp 102-107, 2014.

[44] Ramos L, Cabral R, Goncalo M. Allergic contact dermatitis caused by acrylates and methacrylates – a 7-year study. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 71, pp 102-107, 2014.

[45] Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Amended final report on the safety assessment of ethyl methacrylate. Int J Toxicol, vol. 21, supplement 1, pp 63-79, 2002.

[46] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Ethyl Methacrylate. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0272.html

[47] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Methyl Methacrylate. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0300.html

[48] Ramos L, Cabral R, Goncalo M. Allergic contact dermatitis caused by acrylates and methacrylates – a 7-year study. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 71, pp 102-107, 2014.

[49] Uter W, Geier J. Contact allergy to acrylates and methacrylates in consumers and nail artists – data of the Information Network of Departments of Dermatology, 2004-2013. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 72, pp 224-228, 2015.

[50] Lazarov A. Sensitization to acrylates is a common adverse reaction to artificial fingernails. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 21, pp 169-174, 2007.

[51] Borak J, Fields C, Andrews L, Pemberton M. Methyl methacrylate and respiratory sensitization: a critical review. Crit Rev Toxicol, vol. 41, no. 3, pp 230-268, 2011.

[52] Methacrylate Producers Association, Inc. The methacrylate producers association’s position on use of methacrylic and unreacted methacrylate monomers liquid form in artificial nail products, 2012. Available online: http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1405676/22020353/1361810987690/artificial_nails2.pdf?token=shomjmAvP3NDphvtSYBL3nz4vl8%3D

[53] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (1994). Frequency of use of cosmetic ingredients. FDA database. Washington, DC: FDA.

[54] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Nail Care Products. FDA Database. Washington, DC: FDA. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm127068.htm

[55] Alaves V, Sleeth D, Thiese M, Larson R. Characterization of indoor air contaminants in a randomly selected set of commercial nail salons in Salt Lake County, Utah, USA. International Journal of Environmental Health research, vol. 23, no. 5, pp 419-433, 2013.

[56] Methacrylate Producers Association, Inc. The methacrylate producers association’s position on use of methacrylic and unreacted methacrylate monomers liquid form in artificial nail products, 2012. Available online: http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1405676/22020353/1361810987690/artificial_nails2.pdf?token=shomjmAvP3NDphvtSYBL3nz4vl8%3D

[57] Environmental Protection Agency. (2007). Protecting the Health of Nail Salon Workers. Available online: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/salon/nailsalonguide.pdf

[58] Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Stay healthy and safe while giving manicures and pedicures: a guide for nail salon workers. U.S. Department of Labor, 2012. Available online: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3542nail-salon-workers-guide.pdf