A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers

Some ingredients used in nail products have been tied to cancer, miscarriages, lung diseases and other ailments. The industry has long fought regulations.

by Sarah Maslin Nir
May 8, 2015

Each time a customer pulled open the glass door at the nail shop in Ridgewood, Queens, where Nancy Otavalo worked, a cheerful chorus would ring out from where she sat with her fellow manicurists against the wall: “Pick a color!”

Ms. Otavalo, a 39-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant, was usually stationed at the first table. She trimmed and buffed and chatted about her quick-witted toddler, or her strapping 9-year-old boy. But she never spoke of another dreamed-for child, the one lost last year in a miscarriage that began while she was giving a customer a shoulder massage.

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