Is Your Nail Salon Killing You?

Thursday, 18 September 2014


On Monday, September 15, Public Advocate Letitia James took a stood up for safe manicures, calling on New York City’s nail salons to be safer and cleaner. James released a 21-page report called "How Safe is Your Nail Salon?" The report highlights issues of safety, as well as provides recommendations for best practices and ways to improve nail salon hygiene for employees and customers.

This report comes in the shadow of a recent spotlight on the potential harm caused by many of the chemicals that nail salons use. Nail products contain “the toxic trio,” which include toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. This combination of chemicals has been linked to reproductive harm, cancer and respiratory problems.

In many cases, little to null information is provided to employees on the risks and methods of protection against the chemicals they come in contact with daily. One report discovered that “the intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1,200 times what it would be for the average American.”

The majority of the chemicals composing nail products have not gone through proper safety testing. A remarkable 89 percent of the 10,000 chemicals have not been tested by an independent agency for safety.

Lack of proper sterilization of nail equipment, also puts customers at risk. Unsanitary equipment, especially foot baths with hair and skin remnants, can result in staph infections, Hepatitis and bacterial infections. Dr. Robert Spalding, author of Death by Pedicure: Dirty Secrets of Nail Salons, reported that close to 75 percent of salons in the country do not obey their state’s standards for disinfecting equipment.

Currently in New York City, an estimated 2,000 salons are licensed for nail care and design. The responsibility of nail salon inspections does not fall on the city, but is up to New York State, which only has 27 inspectors for the 5,000 salons statewide.

James’ report recommends implementing a “Healthy Nail Salons” incentive program, which would give eligible businesses a $500 grant for ventilation expenses. The report also suggests conducting a study to discover new ways to improve working conditions, as well as providing multilingual health and safety information.

“New Yorkers deserve to know the salons they visit are safe, and salon employees must know that they have a right to information about the chemicals they’re handling, and how best to protect themselves,” James said.

“Today’s report is not meant to penalize these businesses, but rather outline how the industry can increase protections, and ensure that we create safer and more sanitary conditions in salons.”
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