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New Warning About Manicures, Piercings and Tattoos

January 16, 2012 | 226,387 views
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By Dr. Mercola

About 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis -- and most of them have no idea they have it.

A new study has shown that customers in nail salons could be putting themselves at risk for the deadly disease. 

Many nail salons use sharp instruments, which carry a risk of infection if they are re-used. 

I'm willing to bet many of my female readers enjoy getting their nails done. 

I know I enjoy having mine done periodically.

Aside from looking well-groomed, getting a manicure and/or pedicure is a good stress reliever too, I'm told.

But there are certain risks involved.

To protect yourself from accidental exposure to diseases such as hepatitis, make sure scissors and clippers are disinfected after each use, and that only disposable files are used.

The same goes for the pedicure bath and all suction screens in the tubs.

You'd also be wise to always bring your own nail polish—ideally a non-toxic version, which I'll discuss in a moment—as the polish can be both a source of infectious contamination as well as adding to your toxic burden.

Woman's Health Channel reports:

"It's not just nail salons to watch out for...  [A]nyplace where you can get tattoos, ear piercing, body piercing, and even dental offices can put you at risk."

What is Hepatitis B?

"Hepatitis" means liver inflammation. The "A," "B" and "C" designations refer to the type of hepatitis virus involved. Symptoms of hepatitis A and B are very similar, and include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

However, hepatitis B is often called "the silent killer" because as many as 95 percent of those with the disease exhibit no symptoms at all, until it's too late. The disease can progress unnoticed for years in some cases, and patients oftentimes learn they have chronic hepatitis B once they develop severe liver damage.

But as mentioned above, anytime you're getting tattooed or pierced, or even just getting a manicure or pedicure, you can be exposed to the virus via contaminated instruments breaking through your skin. The virus is spread through contact with blood and/or body fluids of an infected person. Common routes of infection include:

  • IV drug abuse
  • Sexual activity with an infected partner
  • Blood transfusion using contaminated blood

Hepatitis B Treatment

Fortunately, in most cases, the hepatitis B infection will resolve on its own provided you have a well-functioning immune system. Symptoms can be relieved by:

  • Resting
  • Avoiding foods that weaken your immune function, such as sugars/fructose, grains, and processed foods. Healthful foods that help boost your immune system include fermented foods and organic vegetables. (For a list of the top 12 most beneficial foods for robust immune function, please see this previous article)
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels
  • Drinking plenty of pure water
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs

A diagnosis of chronic hepatitis B, on the other hand, will typically include some form of antiviral medication, and depending on how far along your disease has progressed, you may even require a liver transplant. If you were born in or after 1991, you've probably received the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, but if you think that means you don't have to worry about these risks, think again… There are few or no detectable antibodies in the blood of most children within 7-10 years after vaccination, indicating that the inoculation does NOT provide lasting protection.

On the Hepatitis B Vaccine for Babies…

While we're on the subject of hepatitis B, I want to quickly touch on the use of hepatitis B vaccine in newborns, as fears about this disease may lead some people to mistakenly assume vaccination is the best, if not the only, answer. But this vaccine is fraught with dangerous side effects that every parent needs to be aware of…

Routine use of the hepatitis B vaccine for newborns began in 1991, and according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), operated jointly by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there were 36,788 officially reported adverse reactions to hepatitis B vaccines between 1992 and 2005. Of these, 14,800 were serious enough to cause hospitalization, life-threatening health events or permanent disabilities; 781 deaths were also reported.

These numbers, while large, are likely still an underestimation as doctors rarely report serious health problems following vaccination. Studies have estimated that a maximum of 10 percent, and as little as one percent of side effects are ever reported… When comes to infant deaths post vaccination, most are automatically attributed to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) without investigation into whether the vaccine caused the baby's sudden death.

There's no shortage of evidence of harm from this vaccine however, for those willing to look. GreenMedInfo.com lists 46 medical articles that specify more than 60 diseases or adverse unintended consequences associated with hepatitis B vaccination. Common reactions to the vaccine include fatigue, muscle weakness, fever, headache, irritability, and joint pain. But there have been reports of disabling neurological and immunological disorders that have developed following hepatitis B vaccinations as well, including:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) Guillain-Barre syndrome Bell's Palsy
Diabetes Rheumatoid arthritis Lupus
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia purpura Convulsions and brain disorders such as encephalitis (brain swelling) and brain demyelination Immune dysfunction
Visual and hearing impairments, including optic neuritis Pancreatitis Autism spectrum disorders

The hepatitis B vaccine for newborns is the least justifiable of any vaccine I can think of. Remember, the disease is only transmitted via contaminated needles, blood transfusion, or contact with contaminated blood and/or body fluids. Babies can essentially only contract hepatitis B via their mother, if the mother is infected. So why not screen all pregnant women for the disease and only give the vaccine to those infants whose mothers actually test positive for hepatitis B? That policy would be a lot less expensive, and a lot safer for the majority of babies born in the United States.

If you're an expecting parent, it's important to know that the hepatitis B vaccine is given to virtually every newborn in the hospital—many times without parents' consent—shortly after the child is born. If you choose not to have your 12-hour-old newborn vaccinated, it may take a lot of effort and insistence on your part to make sure this vaccine is not given without your informed consent.

The Health Dangers of Manicures and Nail Polish

Now, getting back to manicures and pedicures, viral infections are not the only health hazard you're exposing yourself to at the nail salon.

Certain manicure procedures and most nail polishes typically involve or contain a number of toxic chemicals that can wreak havoc if accidentally introduced into your body. For example, two years ago, a woman reportedly ended up with chronic nerve damage after getting a gel manicure—a procedure in which a special solution is applied to your nails and then hardened under a UV light for a longer-lasting manicure. Most problems arise due to chemicals getting into abrasions, which can easily occur if a nail file slips or if your cuticles are cut back too far.  Tip-offs that a manicure procedure could harm you include:

Your salon uses bottles in unmarked containers Your skin is abraded or cut during the procedure Your skin or nails hurt during or after the nail service
The products smell unusually strong or have a strange odor The instruments used on you are not sterilized You see swelling, redness or other signs of infection

Your nail polish may also add to your toxic burden (remember, women who use make-up on a daily basis can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into their bodies each year, so every little bit certainly adds up). Dangerous chemicals commonly found in nail polish include:

  • Dibutyl phthalates (DBP), known to cause lifelong reproductive impairments in male rats. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), dibutyl phthalates has been shown to damage the testes, prostate gland, epididymus, penis, and seminal vesicles in animals.
  • Toluene is made from petroleum or coal tar. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus
  • Formaldehyde
  • Oxybenzone

The EWG's 2006 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics managed to create some positive change in terms of making safer nail polishes available, with several popular brands vowing to reformulate their products to remove some of the most harmful ingredients, such as DBPs, toluene and formaldehyde. I highly recommend using the EWG's Skin Deep Database to research any cosmetic or personal care product you're thinking of buying, including nail polish.  Also beware that many nail polish removers score quite high on toxicity, but there are completely non-toxic versions on the market as well.

A Safer, Healthier Alternative

Whenever possible, I like to point out safer, healthier alternatives, and I'm happy to say that there is another option even when it comes to beautifying your nails, and that is: buffing. Simple buffing can create a nice, smooth sheen to your nails, without using any nail polish whatsoever. An added boon is that it may actually help your nails grow stronger and longer due to increased circulation, and you won't have to worry about chipped nail polish either. The following video demonstrates how to buff your own nails, and for more information, check out this eHow article.

Getting a manicure can be a wonderful way to pamper yourself, and I'm not against the practice at all – just be mindful of how it's done, and make sure your manicurist adheres to all the safety precautions to prevent spread of infections, and try to avoid as many harsh chemicals as possible.

[+] Sources and References