, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 336-343
Date: 14 May 2008

A Preliminary Survey of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers in Alameda County, California

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Abstract

In recent decades, the nail salon industry has been one of the fastest growing in the U.S. California has over 300,000 workers licensed to perform nail care services. Though little is known about their health, these workers routinely handle cosmetic products containing carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that may increase a woman’s breast cancer risk. Additionally, an estimated 59–80% of California nail salons are run by Vietnamese women who face socio-cultural barriers that may compromise their workplace safety and health care access. In a pilot project designed to characterize Vietnamese nail salon workers in Alameda County, California in order to inform future health interventions and reduce occupational exposures, we conducted face-to-face surveys with a convenience sample of 201 Vietnamese nail salon workers at 74 salons. Of the workers surveyed, a majority reported that they are concerned about their health from exposure to workplace chemicals. Additionally, a sizeable proportion reported having experienced some health problem after they began working in the industry, particularly acute health problems that may be associated with solvent exposure (e.g. skin and eye irritation, breathing difficulties and headaches). Our findings highlight a critical need for further investigation into the breast cancer risk of nail salon workers, underscored by the workers’ routine use of carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, their prevalent health concerns about such chemicals, and their high level of acute health problems. Moreover, the predominance of Vietnamese immigrant women in this workforce makes it an important target group for further research and health interventions.