Nail salons urged to cut chemicals 

The City is putting pressure on San Francisco’s 200 nail salons to discontinue use of products containing three toxins to protect the industry’s estimated 1,800 workers, along with customers.

Known as the “toxic trio,” toluene, dibutyl phthalate or formaldehyde found in nail products can be harmful to pregnant women, and cause headaches, nausea and asthma.

The City is attempting to convince nail salons to discontinue use of products containing these toxins not by banning them, but by encouraging alternative, toxin-free products.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation that would require the Department of the Environment to create a Healthy Nail Salon Recognition program that would inform the public about nail salons that use toxin-free products.

Chiu said many of the San Francisco salons currently use products with those chemicals, exposing customers and employees to the harmful substances, but products with similar costs and equal quality are available.

The legislation, he said, is designed to “foster good consumer choice and encourage nail salons to phase out toxic nail products.”

While the board has drawn criticism in the past for banning products, this proposal is “very light government encouragement,” Chiu said.

The Small Business Commission voted in support of the legislation with the understanding that the Office of Small Business will be able to assist with the outreach and provide counseling to nail salon owners in need of financial and technical assistance.

“On a daily basis and often for long hours, nail salon technicians handle solvents, glues, polishes and other nail care products, which contain a multitude of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, allergies, endocrine disruption, dermatological problems, respiratory illnesses, neurological and reproductive harm,” according to the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “Nail salon workers are particularly at risk for exposure, as they often work in poorly ventilated, small workspaces and with little, if any, protective equipment.”

The Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee is expected to vote on the legislation today. The full board would have to vote to approve the legislation for it to become law. The results of the program would be examined after two years.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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