Nail Salon Workers: Chemical Exposures in the Workplace

Institution: Asian Health Services
Investigator(s): Linda  Okahara ,  -
Award Cycle: 2008 (Cycle 14) Grant #: 14MB-0190 Award: $25,000
Award Type: Joining Forces Conference Award
Research Priorities
Disparities>Disparities: eliminating the unequal burden of breast cancer

Initial Award Abstract (2008)
In recent years, considerable public attention has focused on the safety of personal care products, which has been largely unregulated, despite the potentially harmful compounds they contain, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Health concerns have been particularly pronounced for cosmetology workers who provide hair and nail care services; however, there has been little or no human health evidence to inform the current animated public policy debates over restricting the use of these agents in consumer products.

The cosmetology industry in the U.S. has been one of the fastest growing professions; California has led the way with nearly 37,000 establishments and over 400,000 technicians who have been licensed to perform hair and nail care services since 1960. Cosmetology workers are exposed daily to an array of potentially hazardous compounds associated with nearly every hair and nail care service they provide. Many of these chemicals used are highly volatile, and salons are often poorly ventilated. Furthermore, the presence of numerous chemical compounds in beauty salons is likely to be continuous and mixed, the chronic effects of which are largely unknown. Clearly, the combination of hazardous chemicals, lagging regulatory standards and enforcements, predominance of minority populations with attributes that may further compromise their breast cancer risk and outcome (including language and cultural barriers as well as hormone-containing products targeted at African Americans) underscore a needed focus on this workforce as a special population with emerging health needs.

We propose to organize a convening to discuss the state of the science for research on occupational chemical exposures for cosmetology workers (hairdressers, nail salon workers and beauticians) and potential breast cancer risks, with the intention to inform, guide, and build upon current efforts in California as well as establish an infrastructure by which research information and ideas can be shared across the state and nation.The overall goals and objectives are to:

The long-term goal of the proposed convening is to contribute to the understanding of breast cancer etiology by exploring whether personal care products with compounds that are carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors may contribute to breast cancer risk. By examining links to breast cancer in cosmetology workers, who by virtue of their occupation are likely to have substantially greater exposures than the general population to chemicals of potential interest, this conference will contribute to this larger etiologic question, which has implications for both cosmetology workers as well as consumers. Furthermore, findings from this convening may also provide the impetus to better protect a workforce that has long been underserved.