preparing sample monitor, (L to R) Paul from GCG, Fern (monitor wearer), Kelly from Enchanted SPA

You may have heard through social media that Enchanted SPA commissioned a study on Cyanoacrylate exposure for eyelash extension technicians in September 2017.

If you haven’t – here’s a quick background.  We were concerned about the conflicting advice in the last year or so about what working safely should look like in the eyelash extension industry. At Enchanted SPA, we have always made sure that when we make recommendations, we can back up our advice, but every answer led to more questions!   So we went on a journey to get advice from specialists in their fields.

What we did

We developed a detailed brief on the eyelash extension industry and the use of Cyanoacrylate adhesives during extension application.  We then approached 3M Australia and a number of exhaust ventilation and air purifier providers for recommendations on what masks to use and what type of ventilation would be appropriate.

Their advice?  We can help you, but we need to know what the typical exposure levels of Cyanoacrylate are for your industry first!  Good point!  But there were no public studies or research on OUR industry.

So we decided to bite the bullet and commission one!  We contacted GCG, a highly reputable Australian specialist whose clients include the Federal Government, Defence Force and blue chip mining companies. We spoke with them for months and months about what testing we could do and the best way to define testing sites – it was really important to us that we answered all the ‘what ifs’ and industry concerns that we possibly could.

The Test Scenarios

The kicker is that the best method for testing cyanoacrylate exposure is complicated and very expensive.  So we chose to do two tests, measuring exposure for Ethyl Cyanoacrylate:

  • one at a small typical sized home salon (10-12sqm) for the solo operators
    Commercial Salon test site with 8 lash techs lashing models at the same time

    Commercial Salon – Paul from GCG observing while 8 lash techs lash models at the same time

  • the other in a commercial space with multiple technicians working at the same time to try and lay out a ‘worst case scenario’.

We hoped if we tested both ends of the range, this would provide answers that could fit with the vast majority of technicians.

The sample monitors worn had a gauge that was positioned in the breathing zone of the lash technicians and a pump to collect the air samples that was strapped to their backs.  The sampling method was in accordance with OSHA Method 55.

We used the same parameters for both test sites: same adhesive, (Enchanted Crystal Clear), practice of working to the side (no glue rings or wells on the head), dropped a new bead of adhesive every 15 minutes and sampled for 1 hour and 45 minutes using personal sampling monitors whilst lashing.    In the case of the commercial space test site, we had eight lash technicians all working on a model at the same time and every one of them dropped an adhesive bead every 15 minutes (56 beads in total during the sampling time).  The technician wearing the monitor worked in the centre of the group.

Special Thanks

Before we dive in to the results, we just want to take a quick moment to acknowledge the eyelash extension technicians from the Western Australian lash industry; who donated their time and skills for our project.  They blindly put their trust in us when we called for volunteers – without knowing exactly what they were getting themselves into! So thank you for your contributions!

Commercial Test Site (Enchanted SPA premises)

Fern Cant (randomly selected monitor wearer), Natasha Gallier, Nina Middleton, Lydia Kypros, Jamie-Lee West, Chelsey Briggs, Maryke Botha and Jacinta Rokich.

Commercial Salon site - participants

Commercial Salon Test Site participants

Home salon Test Site (Luscious Lashes by Margaret) – Margaret Attrill
Home salon test site - Luscious Lashes by Margaret, (L to R) Maggie, Janelle & Kelly from Enchanted SPA, Paul from GCG

Home Salon Test Site participants

The results

There is no current Safe Work Australia Occupational Exposure Standard for Ethyl Cyanoacrylate.  Therefore the internationally recognised standard established by the ACGIH (Amercian Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) using a Threshold Limit value (TLV) was used.

This sets an Occupational Exposure Standard for Ethyl Cyanoacrylate at a limit of 0.2ppm (parts per million) on a time weighted average of 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Still with us? This is the measure that would normally be used for calculating exposure results.  But we know a LOT of eyelash extension technicians don’t do normal!  So we asked for two calculations – one at the normal standard; and the other on an adjusted standard of 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, to cover the ‘worst case scenario’ even more.

Maggie lashing model while wearing ethyl cyanoacrylate sampling monitor (visible just below and left of her chin)

Home salon – Maggie lashing wearing ethyl cyanoacrylate sampling monitor (visible just below and left of chin)

Home Salon Results

Exposure levels were so low the lab test couldn’t even detect it.  Cyanoacrylate exposure level recorded: <0.01ppm

  • Officially categorised as “less than 50% of the occupational exposure standard of 0.2ppm” on a Time Weighted Average of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week
  • Even at an adjusted exposure standard based on 12 hours per day for a 6 day working week, the level would still be less than 50%.

 

Commercial Salon Results

Even with eight lash technicians all working at the same time for the entire testing period, all dropping adhesive beads every 15 minutes (56 beads in total), the exposure level was well under the safe limit. Cyanoacrylate exposure level recorded: 0.063 ppm

  • Officially categorised as “less than 50% of the occupational exposure standard of 0.2ppm” on a Time Weighted Average of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week
  • Only 57% of the adjusted exposure standard based on 12 hours per day for 6 days a week
Fern lashing while wearing ethyl cyanoacrylate monitor (back view - orange pump visible)

Commercial Salon – Fern lashing wearing ethyl cyanoacrylate monitor (back view – orange sampling pump visible)

The Lashia Experience

On the day we announced our testing, Mimmi Ebbersten from Lashia Australia told us that Lashia had taken part in similar testing in Sweden in December 2016.   This testing was done by the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Sweden and involved Lashia’s salon and training school, as well as two other salons.

As these results weren’t publicly released, we asked Mimmi for permission to share them with the lash community.  Happily for us and you all,  she said yes! The results were that for Lashia’s salon and school (with portable fume extractors in the room but not in use):

“The amount of Ethyl 2-Cyanoacrylate was below the detection level in all air samples.”

And for the other two salons:

“The air content levels of Ethyl 2-Cyanoacrylate were in most cases below the detection level, ie. very low.”

The recommendations from this study conducted in Sweden were as follows:

Even though very low levels of Ethyl 2-Cyanoacrylate were found:

  1. Respiratory protection with solvents(filter type ABE1) should be used (half mask with goggles, full mask or fan controlled respiratory protection)
  2. To avoid skin exposure and risk of hand eczema disposable gloves made of nitrile rubber should be used.

GCG Recommendations

Now the recommendations by GCG might be unexpected for some and even controversial for others.

In the specialist Work Health & Safety and occupational hygiene services field in Australia, recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE) and mechanical controls are only made if a risk evaluation determines the work practices, products used and environment are not sufficient to maintain safe exposure levels. If the levels are approaching the established occupational exposure standard, then first PPE, then mechanical controls are considered.   Our results were nowhere near the limit.

So here are GCG’s recommendations, based on the occupational exposure results, task observations and risk evaluation:

  1. No masks, gloves, or local exhaust ventilation are necessary
  2. Non-permeable under eye protection should be used to limit risk of excess adhesive making contact with client’s skin (don’t use paper tape)
  3. Practices utilising a glue ring or placing a glue well on the Client’s head should be discontinued to minimise atmospheric and dermal (skin) risk during application (don’t use a glue ring or well on the client’s head)
  4. The Client’s eyelashes and eye area should be cleaned at the completion of treatment to remove any residual adhesive from the application process.
  5. Maintain indoor air quality levels in the salon within the recommended IAQ guideline values
Limitations

We know that some people who have experienced symptoms might find the recommendations surprising and it is important to note there are limitations to these findings:

  • All sampling results are representative of the work area at the time monitoring was conducted.
  • Changes in the workplace environment and day to day tasks can greatly alter personal exposure levels.

As such, individual results may not be representative of the true exposure for the occupation/area in question.

Basically what we are telling you is we know the way we work as a company is safe.  We know our Ethyl Cyanoacrylate based adhesive is safe.  We know that lash artists like Maggie, working within the same principles of the testing are safe.  If you are working in the same way, there is no reason to suggest your exposure levels are likely to be any different to these results.  If you use a glue ring or well on the client’s head, if your ventilation is poor; the exposure levels might be different.

At the end of the day, PPE or additional mechanical controls are only recommended to reduce risk if the results are at, near or above the safe limit.  These scientific tests prove we are so far below it, there is no risk. Having said that, technicians with asthma or other sensitivities *could* experience effects even well under the safe exposure limit.  They may need to consider additional controls if their symptoms are not related to indoor air quality or another trigger that can be addressed through other means.

While they are not required based on these exposure results; GCG suggested that if you choose to wear a mask for vapour protection, a disposable respirator with nuisance level organic vapour filter should be worn.

Examples include the 3M 9913V or the Moldex 2400P2. Choose a valved respirator over non-valved. The valve helps to reduce heat and moisture build up in the mask; particularly in humid environments and can reduce issues with skin irritation around the facial seal area.

This project was privately funded by Enchanted SPA and sponsored by Louise Tierney from Lash Inc.  Our only motivation was to educate ourselves on appropriate steps to address health and safety using actual data and professional recommendations  for OUR industry.  We promised we would share the results with the lash industry worldwide because we thought it was important to start a pool of information that is actually relevant to US instead of relying on other industries for answers that might not fit the way we work.

We’ve lived up to our promise – what you choose to do with the information is now up to you!  We wish you a long, happy, healthy lash career xx

 

To use the information contained in this report for commercial purposes, please contact us for permission first.