NY Healthy Nail Salon Coalition Members Testify at City Council Hearing

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Contact:
Mónica Novoa, NYCOSH
mnovoa@nycosh.org


Members of NY Healthy Nail Salon Coalition Testify at City Council Hearing
for Introduction of Public Advocate’s Healthy Nail Salon Bill

Groups Highlight Public Health Imperatives for Safety and Health of
Low-wage Workers and their Customers

New York, New York – May 1, 2015. The NY Healthy Nail Salon Coalition kicked off International Workers Day at a hearing for the introduction of Intro 304-A, a bill introduced today by Public Advocate Letitia James, to improve the safety and health of nail salons. The Coalition believes the proposed legislation is a significant step in the direction of promoting healthier nail salons by reducing the amount of toxic chemicals and by employing measures to improve indoor air quality.

There are approximately 2,000 nail salon workers throughout New York City who daily are exposed to dangerous health hazards. The majority of the work is low-wage work, mostly done by immigrant women. Customers are mostly women from a multitude of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Making nail salons safer and healthier for women workers and customers is a public health issue that has been advanced across California and in cities like Seattle and Boston. Testimony from Coalition members provided a full picture of public health concerns from occupational safety and health, worker and consumer rights and environmental justice. Experts included: Adhikaar, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the Environmental Justice Project of New York Lawyers for The Public Interest (NYLPI) and New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

The Healthy Nail Salon Bill focuses on three primary areas: the creation of a voluntary certification program and coinciding guidelines for nail salons, education and outreach on health and safety in nail salons, and the creation of a task force to produce a report and make recommendations to increase nail salon safety. The Coalition mobilized in support of the bill, and also had a number of recommendations on improving the bill’s effectiveness.

“We must work to ensure that this program has actual inspectors on the ground who are ensuring that salons are eligible for both reimbursements and the ‘healthy nail salon’ certification. We also believe that the task force must be involved in the creation and evolution of these guidelines,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Removing hazardous chemicals from salons, reformulating products to reduce chemical volatility, adherence to ventilation standards, including use of “source capture” systems, like down-draft tables, are central to the goal of limiting exposures for nail salon customers and workers alike, the Coalition stated. The Coalition’s priority areas are informed by working conditions and worker health – but the benefits of improving salons will be felt by customers too.

The coalition also supported the bill’s focus to build awareness and to address the issues that workers face. As Siru Malla, a Nail Salon Worker with Adhikaar testified:

The chemicals and dust from nail filing regularly blocks my nose. It makes it hard to breathe. Many of my friends who work in nail salons have become used to this. My salon does not provide masks and it is not mandatory to wear masks. We do not wear gloves while handling chemicals and providing services. My friends complain about developing allergies. Nail salons need to change these conditions … This is a place where people come to feel beautiful. This shouldn’t happen at the expense of workers like us. Nail salons should be healthy for everyone.

The Coalition also urged the Council to consider making the entire program mandatory through adopting regulations, as opposed to a voluntary certification program, and stressed the importance of excluding nail salon businesses that have had a history of wage and hour violations, or that have unpaid OSHA violations; both in terms of the reimbursement for businesses, as well as the certification program itself.

“Violators of labor and health and safety law should not be awarded with any praise through this program,” said Rachel Spector, staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum summed up the broader goal of the Coalition, “Nail salons should not only help New Yorkers feel beautiful, they must also keep nail salon workers safe and healthy.” She added, “Intro 304-A is an important first step in creating healthier salons for consumers and workers—including hundreds of Asian immigrant women—in NYC.”
The Coalition commends Public Advocate James for her leadership in making nail salons safer in New York City.

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