Public Advocate Seeks to Crackdown on Toxic Chemicals Used at Nail Salons

Many nail salons were recently found to be using chemicals linked to respiratory trouble and birth defects, and employees have to breathe them in for long hours, according to public advocate Letitia James. She is proposing tighter controls on the industry that include hiring inspectors to examine nail salons and requiring businesses to provide protective gear.

The chemicals are found in polish, nail hardeners, fingernail glue and artificial nails, among other products. An employee at a nail salon in Manhattan said she has suffered from constant headaches, sore throats and anemia.

James says the work environment needs to improve and change, otherwise we will have long-lasting health problems in our workers.

In recent surveys, more than 1/3 of salon workers said they experienced skin problems and eye irritation, and more than half suffered from allergies.

James is urging the city to hire inspectors to examine nail salons. Only the state can regulate the businesses, and they have 27 inspectors for more 5,000 salons statewide. Her goal to require business to provide protective gear like gloves, goggles and face masks. Such protective gear is recommended by OSHA and the EPA.

James is also proposing a Healthy Nail Salons program for businesses that agree to use nontoxic products and improve their ventilation systems. Businesses would receive $500 grants from the city.

OSHA warns that 12 chemicals used in salons may be hazardous to workers’ health, leading to headaches, dizziness, eye and lung irritation, liver and kidney damage and birth defects.

Studies have found that children who were exposed to these chemicals and fumes before birth did worse on cognitive tests than the general population.

Surveys have found that 71% of employees never or rarely wear face masks, 63% don’t wear goggles, and 46% don’t wear gloves.

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