Nail salon workers skeptical of cosmetology regulations

New regulations on nail salons handed down by the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology this week received a skeptical response from some working in the field, who questioned how effective they’ll be in stymieing potential infections.

The regulations, unveiled Tuesday, create a new set of statewide cleaning requirements for footspas and include increased fines of $500 per footspa chair for salons that fail to comply.

Based on recommendations from the Working Group on Footspa Safety, the regulations are the direct result of a growing number of infection outbreaks, such as the infection of roughly 120 women in San Jose in 2004 that was due to the failure to properly clean pedicure equipment.

More famously, former Laker Girl/singer/”American Idol” judge Paula Abdul testified for the increased regulations in Sacramento almost a year ago after she developed an infection in her thumb from a manicure with unclean equipment.

“It’s got to be sterilized because sometimes you draw blood!” Joe Benoit said.

Benoit, a World War II veteran, was at the Silhouette Salon in Burlingame on Wednesday for a pedicure, which he gets every six weeks.

The woman working on his feet, who refused to give her name, said she’d been in the business for 42 years and that it was newcomers to the country that had trouble with cleaning equipment simply because of cultural differences.

“We’re the most sterilized country in the world,” she said. “If you’ve taken the (licensing) exam, some of those kids wouldn’t pass it.”

She said lawmakers and officials and Sacramento wouldn’t be effective in regulation because enforcement was lacking.

Kevin Flanagan, a spokesman with the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, said that additional regulations are coming up for approval before the board in the next three months that would put violators of cleaning codes on probation for one year, require them to take part in remedial education on such procedures and be subject to repeat inspections at their own expense.

Flanagan estimated there are about 40,000 cosmetology establishments in the state. Figures from the office of Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, estimate there are about 290,000 licensed manicurists and cosmetologists.

Yee has pushed the issue in Sacramento, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation he introduced in 2005, instead creating the Working Group on Footspa Safety.

dsmith@examiner.com

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