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Opinion: An Immigrant Daughter’s Call to Help Philadelphia’s Nail Salons

March 5, 2021

Tran Huynh, PhD, an assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, wrote a March 5 Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece about how to support Philadelphia’s nail salons during the pandemic:

"Philadelphia’s nail salons are struggling to keep the lights on as COVID-19 continues to keep many consumers home. But the pandemic is not entirely to blame. The system was broken before COVID-19 hit — little regulation led to nail salons flooded with chemicals, little support existed for immigrant entrepreneurs and low-wage workers. The pandemic gives us a chance to rebuild, with safe manicures for consumers, and assistance to immigrant entrepreneurs to create healthy workplaces and thriving businesses to stimulate Philadelphia’s economy. Here’s how.

The health burden experienced by immigrant nail salon workers is well-documented, including a higher risk of acute respiratory health symptoms from years of exposure to chemicals, as well as musculoskeletal pains from doing repetitive tasks. While chemical concentrations in nail salons are typically below legal limits, we don’t know the long-term effects of exposure to even supposed low levels of these chemicals for years. Lack of federal regulation of chemical manufacturers flooded consumers with nail products that contain harmful ingredients.

This lack of regulation allows chemical manufacturers to shift responsibility to salon owners to keep their workers safe and consumers to make their own choices, between using abundantly available, cheap, and harmful products and safer, more expensive alternatives. Many small-business owners, particularly minority-owned businesses, have limited resources to keep up with changing product formulations and new best practices. This is an equity issue."

Read the full op-ed on the Inquirer's website