The ordinance creating a Nail Salon Recognition Program is intended to encourage local salons to protect the health of customers and workers.
San Francisco Board of Supervisor President David Chiu introduced the ordinance in July and it was approved by the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee last week.
"By recognizing nail salons that prioritize the health and safety of both workers and customers, my legislation is an important first step in addressing the 'Toxic Trio' problem," said Supervisor Chiu. "Ultimately, we hope to see manufacturers reformulate their products and stop using harmful chemicals in them altogether."
Nail technician at work (Photo credit unknown)
For years, three hazardous chemicals have been standard ingredients of nail polish - dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. They are known collectively as the Toxic Trio and are associated with cancer, birth defects, asthma and other chronic diseases.
In the approximately 200 licensed nail salons doing business across San Francisco, workers are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis.
Because these hazards are becoming known, and because dibutyl phthalate is banned in cosmetics in Europe, many manufacturers have removed these chemicals from their products and advertise their nail polishes as being free of the Toxic Trio or "three-free."
"Three-Free" products are available at prices comparable to the prices charged for the products that contain the three toxic substances.
To publicize Chiu's ordinance and the dangers of toxic chemicals in nail polish, on July 20 nail technicians at the International College of Cosmetology offered free manicures using nail polish made with safer alternatives.
A premiere of Brave New Foundation's film "Overexposed Underinformed" was screened at the event in the presence of nail salon workers highlighted in the film and who have faced health and safety issues.
The ordinance creating a Nail Salon Recognition Program is co-sponsored by Supervisors Sophie Maxwell, Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu and Ross Mirkarimi, and supported by advocacy groups California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, Environment California and Asian Law Caucus.
"This ordinance is a groundbreaking first step towards addressing worker health," says Julia Liou of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. "Workers experience chronic illnesses due to the chemicals in nail products that they work with on a daily basis."
A 2007 study of Vietnamese-American nail technicians suggested an elevated prevalence of work-related health effects, including respiratory symptoms, skin problems and headaches, as compared to the general population.
"Californians are over-exposed to toxic chemicals and here's an easy way to make nail salons safer for workers and patrons," said Pamela King Palitz, Environmental Health Advocate for Environment California.
"California's Green Chemistry Initiative should be taking care of problems like this," Palitz said. "We need a strong state-wide program to protect Californians from toxic chemicals, but we are proud of San Francisco for stepping forward in the absence of swift action by the state or federal government."
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