May 21, 2015

NailSalon_2Nail salons and their health hazards have been prominent in the news lately.  In California, there are 122,039 licensed manicurists, most of whom are women of reproductive age. It’s estimated that as many as 80% are Vietnamese; many have limited English skills. Three chemicals of high concern in nail salon products are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, and toluene, referred to as the “Toxic Trio.”

DBP is listed under California’s Prop 65 as a reproductive and development toxicant. Toluene negatively impacts the central nervous system and can cause reproductive harm. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and can cause respiratory problems. Neurological symptoms such as impairment to cognitive efficiency, memory, and learning in nail salon workers are associated with low-level exposures to solvents like toluene and formaldehyde.

The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is leading efforts to make nail salons less toxic for workers and consumers. Some, but not all, manufacturers are making comparably priced nail products without any of the Toxic Trio. To date, fifty nail salons have been recognized by San Francisco, Alameda County, and San Mateo County as “Healthy Nail Salons” which commit to using polish and polish thinner and remover without any of the Toxic Trio; improving ventilation; providing workers with personal protective equipment; and participating in trainings on safer products and practices. Santa Clara County will launch its own program later this year, and the City of Santa Monica also has a program.  It’s anticipated that some seventy salons will be able to display the “Healthy Nail Salon” banner by the end of the year.  Research shows that these programs can reduce harmful exposures.

And this is where you, a health-conscious consumer, come in.  With your pocketbook, you can make sure that these programs expand and spread. Support healthier workplaces by patronizing a “Healthy Nail Salon” in your area. Let the salon know that a healthier workplace and a less toxic manicure or pedicure is why you came and why you’ll keep coming back.

Go to the campaign website to find a healthy nail salon near you and learn more about this issue.

By Catherine Porter, SF Bay Area PSR Legislative Analyst