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News Releases from Region 09

U.S. EPA awards $120,000 to protect health at Bay Area nail salons

Oakland-based group one of 10 selected nationally to receive a total of about $1.2 million

Contact Information: 
Michele Huitric (huitric.michele@epa.gov)

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $120,000 to Asian Health Services to reduce chemical exposure for nail salon workers in Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Matthew Tejada, director of U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, announced the grant today at Leann’s Nails, a certified Healthy Nail Salon in Alameda.

Asian Health Services, located in Oakland, will work with partners to pilot a microloan program to help salons become recognized as “healthy nail salons,” in part through the purchase of indoor air ventilation equipment. The Healthy Nail Salon program was created to address the impact of chemical exposure on nail salon workers. Participating salons implement key pollution prevention strategies, including use of less toxic nail polishes and training for owners and workers.

“EPA is proud to continue supporting Asian Health Services and their partners as they address health issues experienced by the nail salon community,” said Mr. Tejada. “This project will increase the number of Bay Area salons using healthier workplace practices, reducing both worker and customer exposure to toxic chemicals.”

Using nail polishes and lacquers for long hours in inadequately ventilated spaces is a suspected health risk for nail salon workers. These products often contain the chemicals toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate, which have been associated with respiratory problems, reproductive effects and cancer, particularly with long-term and high exposures. National industry estimates show that 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.”

Asian Health Services will implement the project in partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative; the Federal Reserve Bank; San Mateo, San Francisco and Alameda Counties; and two local non-profit microlenders, Working Solutions and Opportunity Fund.

This project builds on earlier California nail salon successes supported by EPA. In 2013, the Agency provided Asian Health Services with a $30,000 Environmental Justice grant to develop a model of best practices to reduce chemical exposure for workers in the nail salon industry. In partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, the outreach program reached nail salons in Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara Counties. In 2012, EPA gave an Environmental Justice grant to Boat People SOS, a member of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, to provide training at nail salons in Orange County.

EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding for non-profit and tribal organizations to partner with stakeholders from across industry, government and academia to develop solutions that address environmental and public health issues in America’s low income and minority communities. Each of this year’s recipients received up to $120,000 to support two-year projects.

For more information about EPA’s Environmental Justice programs, including the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, which is currently open for applications, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-grants-funding-and-technical-assistance

For more information on EPA’s efforts to protect the health of nail salon workers, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/protecting-health-nail-salon-workers-0