Oakland nonprofit Asian Health Services received a $120,000 grant this week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The grant was provided to support the work the group is doing to protect nail salon workers in the Bay Area from being exposed to dangerous chemicals.
The money will be used to launch a microloan program that will help existing salons install indoor air ventilation equipment, purchase less toxic nail polish, and provide training for nail salon workers. This project will be titled the “Healthy Nail Salon” program.
“EPA is proud to continue supporting Asian Health Services and their partners as they address health issues experienced by the nail salon community,” said Matthew Tejada, director of U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. “This project will increase the number of Bay Area salons using healthier workplace practices, reducing both worker and customer exposure to toxic chemicals.”
For cities like San Francisco—where some neighborhoods have several nail salons in the span of a few blocks—this could have long reaching results. Many of the products used in salons contain toxic chemicals, such as toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate, which have been known to cause respiratory problems, reproductive issues, and even cancer.
As to why Asian Health Services is getting involved, the answer is simple: according to national studies, 97 percent of salon workers are women, and about half are of Vietnamese descent.
“Nail salons make up an important economic fabric for our immigrant communities. We have a unique opportunity to provide the capital and resources needed for these small businesses to improve the health of their workers, customers, and environment,” said Julia Liou, director of program planning and development at Asian Health Services and co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “We look forward to pioneering this innovative approach towards building healthier communities.”