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The Toxic Truth About Nail Salons


If you’ve ever stepped into a nail salon, you know the smell of a chemical cocktail that hits you like an invisible wall. While consumers may tolerate it during a short visit, the nail salon workers find themselves stewing in a toxic bubble for years. On this edition, we take a look at the health impacts of chemical exposure, the shoddy regulation of cosmetics, and the movement towards greener nail salons.

Asian Health Services Educates Patient Leaders from pauline bartolone on Vimeo.

Nail Salon Workers Speak Up About Chemical Exposure

The amount of nail salons has nearly quadrupled nationwide in the past decade. In California, about two-thirds of nail salon workers are Vietnamese immigrants. In this next segment, Making Contact Producer Pauline Bartolone explores the health impact of chemical exposure on nail salon workers, and what groups are doing to protect them.

Nail Salon Businesses Go Green in Bay Area

Nail salon workers and advocates are pushing hard to change public policy around exposure to toxic chemicals.  But there’s also a movement coming from businesses themselves to make the salons greener and safer for workers and consumers. Correspondent Momo Chang has more.


Alisha Nga Tran, Patient Leadership Council facilitator, Asian Health Services; Dr. Thu Quach, Epidemiologist, Cancer Prevention Institute of California; My Tong, Associate, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative; Lam Le, former nail salon worker and cancer survivor; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins , CEO, Green For All; Jamie Silberberger, Director of Programs and Policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth; Uyen Nguyen, Owner, Isabella Nail Salon; Sarah Vuong , employee at Isabella Nail Salon; Jill Adams , client, Isabella Nail Salon; David Chiu , President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Thanks to all of our supporters, to As You Sow‘s Environmental Enforcement Fund and to for helping to crowd fund this story.

For more information:

Asian Health Services
Oakland, CA

California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative
Oakland, CA

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Washington, D.C.

National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance
Washington, D.C.

The Story of Cosmetics

Women’s Voices for the Earth
Missoula, MT


P.S. by Chromakey
Warm Sound by Zero 7

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