Send Ben: Dangerous chemical found at several Jacksonville nail salons

Local salons using banned chemicals

An Action News Jax investigation discovered several local nail salons were caught with a dangerous banned chemical that can damage your skin and nails, cause breathing problems and even trigger miscarriages.

We sent Action News Jax’s Ben Becker to those salons to press for answers.

Getting a manicure is routine for many women – including Aimee Peacock,

Content Continues Below

“I get my nails done every two weeks,” says Peacock, who has never heard of methyl methacrylate, or MMA.

MMA is an incredibly strong bonding agent that some salons use illegally with acrylic nails to attach them, add tips and sculpt them. It’s safe once it dries, but it’s dangerous in its liquid form.

Both short-term and long-term exposure can cause health issues to you and the nail technician. “It can range from redness, blistering to an open sore,” Dr. Kevin Pegg, a professor of natural sciences at the Florida State College Jacksonville, said.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, MMA has been deemed poisonous. Researchers say it could cause miscarriages, lesions on the kidneys and liver and respiratory problems.

But there’s little way to know if your salon is using it. “You really wouldn't unless you saw the bottle on the actual shelf. Most move from a larger bottle to a smaller bottle, so you wouldn't know,” Pegg said.

Action News Jax went through state inspection reports and discovered four salons in our area that were cited for having MMA. Becker paid each one a visit.

Latin Salon at the Orange Park Mall is shut down, but three others are still open.

The owner of the SNS Nail Spa in the Avenues Mall said when they used MMA, it didn’t touch the skin. Becker pressed: “You thought you weren't breaking the law? No. Not at all? But now you know you were? yes.”

The owner of Nail Spa 2 on Beach Boulevard blamed his supplier, saying that it was not his fault.

The owner of Regal Nails in the Walmart on Blanding Boulevard said she used MMA for years but didn’t realize it. She let Becker in the back and showed him they now use what’s called EMA, ethyl methacrylate. “That’s the EMA you use now?” Becker asked. “Yeah, not the MMA?  Yeah, no MMA,” the owner said.

EMA is recommended by the Nail Manufacturers Council and the American Beauty Association.

Salons are tempted to use MMA because it’s cheaper, dries quickly and forms a strong bond.

In fact, it may be too strong. Imperial Nails and Spa doesn’t use MMA and has even moved on from gel manicures and ultraviolet light lamps.

The salon said dipping powder is healthier.

As for Peacock, she says she’ll be asking the right questions when she gets her nails done in the future. “Next time I go to a salon, I'll think twice, yeah, remember MMA, and that’s easy to remember,” Peacock said.

There are a couple of clues if a salon is using MMA, including very inexpensive acrylic nail treatments and a bitter smell that makes your eyes water.

Download WJAX Apps
Download WJAX Apps