Educational extension, changes in public policies needed to reduce health risks in manicure salons



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The salon industry has seen rapid growth in the last 20 years, becoming increasingly popular among women of all ages who enjoy doing nails professionally. For technicians at these salons – many of whom are not native speakers of English – this beauty has a cost: exposure to potentially unsafe chemicals and other health hazards in the workplace. A new study by the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University found that educational outreach and policy change are needed to help reduce these risks for employees and salon owners.

Tran B. Huynh, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Dornsife School of Public Health, led the study to identify strategies for intervention in manicure salons in Philadelphia. Interviews with employees and managers / owners of different salons revealed a complex interaction between personal and environmental factors that affect health and safety practices in these salons.

The workers talked about several acute health symptoms related to the use of chemicals, ergonomics and risks of infectious diseases that they or their colleagues experienced. These included headaches; respiratory, eye and skin irritations; and pain in the shoulders, back and hands. Managers and owners, on the other hand, reported fewer negative health symptoms or concerns compared to workers, attributing irritation to allergies.

The chemicals toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate – abundantly found in nail products – have been associated with risks of reproductive and cognitive development, cancer, allergies and irritation, and can affect the central nervous system. Although previous studies have shown that levels of these chemicals in nail salons are relatively low compared to occupational exposure limits, the consistent report of acute health symptoms experienced by salon workers ensures intervention because salon staff may be at risk by working long hours in the halls.

"If we're going to change the policy, it's important to involve the salon owners and employees so the policy does not place a greater burden on those companies, mostly immigrant-owned," Huynh said.

According to Huynh, New York State has recently passed strict strict beauty salon legislation that overcharges small business owners who are already trying to survive. California has taken a different approach and established outreach programs that have created a more collaborative relationship with salon owners to encourage them to create a healthier workplace for everyone.

"Philadelphia can learn from these two states," Huynh said. "I've been working with the Philadelphia Air Services for interior quality issues in salons and finding a balanced policy has not been easy."

But even simple protection practices could go a long way, according to the researchers. Beauty salon owners should encourage employees to wear masks and gloves and walk among clients, as well as the proper handling of chemicals and the use of a general ventilation system.

During the study, the researchers found that while some basic knowledge about risk and control measures were generally known among employees, misconceptions about certain health and safety practices also existed. These include, but are not limited to, the use of surgical masks for protection from dust and chemicals or the belief that muscle pain is primarily due to aging.

"Some of these misunderstandings have been consistent with reports of other state-of-the-art salon practices that may indicate that gaps in information and training persist not only in Philadelphia, but potentially among the largest," the researchers wrote.

According to the study, several workplace environmental factors play a significant role in shaping salon safety practices. Different homeowners have different styles of management and organizational policy within their halls that can affect the behavior of technicians. Clients can also positively or negatively influence the practices of a salon. However, owners and technicians often respond to external requirements and law enforcement.

Researchers have focused on Vietnamese nail technicians and owners because most are of Vietnamese origin, but future studies will focus on other groups of immigrants who work in the salon industry. They are in the process of determining an intervention and extension program for Vietnamese salon employees.

"Once we determine that our intervention / outreach program is effective, we can translate the materials into more languages ​​and work with more ethnic groups," Huynh said.

The study, "Factors influencing health and safety practices among Vietnamese nail salon technicians and owners: a qualitative study," was published in American Journal of Industrial Medicine.


Studies highlight potential health risks for consumers and employees in beauty salons


More information:
Tran B. Huynh, Factors influencing health and safety practices among Vietnamese nail salon technicians and owners: a qualitative study, American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2019) DOI: 10,1002 / ajim.22947

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University of Drexel

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Educational extension, changes in public policies needed to reduce health risks in manicure salons (2019, February 5)
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