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Watch Out: How Fungi Are Taking Over Nail Salons And What To Do About It

Uncategorized Jul 16, 2021


Hello, and welcome to The Mold Show this week. My name is Dr. Cameron Jones, and I'm going to be focusing on indoor air quality, and specifically a particular class of business where you could unexpectedly come into contact with high levels of mold, where you'd least expect it. And what are those types of businesses that I'm focusing on? Well, they are your nail salon and podiatry medical practice. And the talk this week is on how fungi you're taking over nail salons and what to do about it.

And why are we talking about this? Because a really interesting publication just came out in the literature, focusing on how the practices that go on inside these salons is liberating higher levels of fungi, not just spores, but debris, which can potentially cause an immune reaction. And so I'm going to be going through what this publication shows and what you should be looking out for when you next visit the podiatrist or the nail salon.

So what are some of the health concerns in nail salons and podiatry practices? Well, I did a review of some of the statistics, and in Australia there are over 3000 retail nail salons and there are over 5,759 registered podiatrists. So, that is a lot of individuals who are performing various different services on nails. And most often, these workers complained of respiratory illnesses and allergies, and since the early noughties in the research literature, there have been lots of reports of podiatrists showing up to a 40% increase in asthma, compared with the general population.

Now the most common nail condition is something called onychomycosis. Yes, it's a difficult word to pronounce, but this is infection of the nail bed with different types of fungi. And the types of fungi are usually called dermatophytes, That is they excel at exploiting the nail bed tissue and using that as a nutrient source. But when services are performed on nails, such as drilling and grinding and buffing, this liberates higher amounts of dust containing fungi. And the types of fungi that are found in the air include Aspergillus, Scopulariopsis, and even Candida.

Now we have to focus on the fungal risks. Obviously, inhaling fine particulate matter for prolonged periods of time can definitely cause adverse reactions. Now this is normally okay for healthy people, but not for older or immunocompromised people, and especially in this era of COVID safety, we all need to be aware of those environments which may pose a stress on older or immunocompromised people. And podiatry and nail cells are certainly some of those service providers where we need to take precautions.

Now it's well-known that fungal exposure can cause asthma, but there's other types of problems as well. Fungal sensitization is an immune response without inflammation, whereas fungal allergy involves inflammation. So what are some of the solutions to reduce these risks? You should definitely be looking for nail salon personnel and podiatrists who are wearing the correct PPE. What do I mean by this? Well, usually a mask, a face mask, and make sure it's well-fitting, and you may need to wear one as well, to reduce your exposure to this fungal contaminated dusts that are all around you in these environments.

But podiatrists are also being encouraged to explore and implement better drilling techniques, and to take advantage of water-based dust extraction systems.

At the end of the day, indoor air quality is something that we can all be vigilant about. So next time you visit your podiatrist or your nail salon, look out for what type of indoor air quality engineering controls they're implementing. And just be aware that all of those fine fragments and dusts definitely do contain mold or fungi, and this could potentially cause an adverse health reaction in you. Anyway, bye for now. See you next week.


Gupta AK, Quinlan EM. Fungal Lung: The Risk of Fungal Exposure to Nail Care Professionals. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2021 Jun 11:20-269. doi: 10.7547/20-269. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34121121.

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